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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Monday, June 6, 2011

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Michael Steele, Amanda Drury, David Corn, Richard Wolffe, Steve McMahon, John Feehery, Jeff Bridges, Billy Shore

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  When all else fails, the truth.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight:

You got it, it gets worse, much worse.  Anthony Weiner just came clean, finally.  All day long, stories were emerging that Weiner had engaged in on-line consensual relationships involving sexting and intimate photos.  Late this afternoon, a tearful and emotional Weiner admitted that, yes, he has been carrying on numerous such correspondences with women, some after his recent marriage.  He also admitted that lied all last week, that he did, in fact, tweet that now infamous picture of himself to a woman in Washington state.

Weiner apologized to his family and to his constituents, and he insisted he would not resign.  It‘s an explosive story, and we‘re covering it from every angle.  Can Weiner survive this sex scandal?  Some politicians resign immediately.  Others, like Bill Clinton and David Vitter, manage to thrive.  What distinguishes the survivors from the victims?  We‘ll soon find out.

The Huffington Post‘s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and Michael Steele is the former chairman of the RNC and now an MSNBC political analyst, as well.  Gentlemen, you‘re the experts.  But first here‘s the news.  Here‘s Congressman Weiner late today.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.  Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked.  I took it down and said that I had been hacked.  I then continued with that story, to stick to that story, which was a hugely regrettable mistake.

This woman was unwittingly dragged into this and bears absolutely no responsibility.  I‘m so sorry to have disrupted her life in this way.  To be clear, this picture was of me, and I sent it.  I‘m deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff.


MATTHEWS:  Howard, what do you make of this?  Because here‘s a guy who tried every trick on the book to cover it up.  He blamed it on Breitbart, the conservative blogger.  He blamed it on hacking.  He blamed it on the media.  He did everything he could.  He talked to Luke Russert, said, Well, maybe, maybe, maybe it was me.  Every game in the book—limited, modified hang-out.

Finally, after all this, the word comes out there‘s a lot more pictures coming.  They‘re all over the place.  We‘re going to show you these pictures tonight (INAUDIBLE) They‘re not the grossest pictures in the world, but they prove he‘s been lying.

We‘re going to look at them right now, by the way.  Here they are.  Here‘s one he‘s just showing off his chest to somebody out—some woman out there.  It‘s just—it‘s just this stuff.  It‘s just childly (ph).  It‘s the kind of stuff maybe an 18-year-old—well, how about a 15-year-old?  And here‘s another one with “It‘s me.”  He wants to make sure the person watching at the other end of this transmission knows it‘s him.  There‘s a picture of him sitting with a cat, where he uses another word that has some sort of other connotation we‘re all familiar with (INAUDIBLE) gross out somebody.

He‘s finally told the truth.  Let‘s get to why he did it.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, the reason he did it is that he was cornered.  The word was spreading throughout the media and on the Hill all day today.  You know, I was getting calls and e-mails from people about what was going on, what was likely to come down.  So he was cornered.  He had lied...

MATTHEWS:  What was his alternative to telling the truth?

FINEMAN:  There was no longer an alternative.


FINEMAN:  And only—and you see this repeatedly.  I mean, one of your producers asked me if I‘d been covering this story.  And I should have said to her I‘ve been covering this story for 27 years.



FINEMAN:  OK.  Because this is what happens when politicians lie their way into a corner about their personal life.  People expect those who govern us to be able to govern themselves at some kind of basic level.  He couldn‘t.  He lied about it and he kept lying until he was cornered by the political community and the press.  That‘s the only reason he did this today.

MATTHEWS:  This is what politicians are known for.  And I‘m going to be completely non-partisan tonight.  This is a sick story of personal behavior by—I think it‘s part of the juvenilization of America, this (INAUDIBLE) Hollywood 70-year-old people dressing like 18-year-olds or 8-year-olds.  And the way people behave—they talk in this sort of idiot Twitter language.

Michael, politicians, rolling disclosure—there‘s a term for it.


MATTHEWS:  You roll and roll and roll and you lie and lie and lie. 

And you finally tell the truth when you have no alternative.

STEELE:  And Howard hit it right on the head.  I mean, we‘ve seen this story played out on the right and the left over the last 25 years, and recently in the last two years.  And the reality of it is—and I said this last week—when you‘re in that situation, you cannot escape the facts.  They‘re going to come out.  Someone else, some third party has that little bit of information...

MATTHEWS:  He knew it!

STEELE:  ... that can trip you up.  And so you—if he had this press conference at the time this had first been reported...

MATTHEWS:  What would have happened?

STEELE:  ... I think he would be in a better position...

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe all this other crap wouldn‘t have come out.

STEELE:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Congressman Weiner‘s—more at his press—by the way, Andrew Breitbart, the man who leaked a lot of this stuff—he‘d been getting it on line.  He didn‘t hack it, he just got it somehow.  We‘ll find out that probably later.  He was in the room basically jousting with the guy.  Let‘s watch now.  More of Weiner.


WEINER:  In addition, over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, FaceBook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone with women I had met on line.  I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.  For the most part, these communications took place before my marriage, though have some sadly took place after.


MATTHEWS:  OK, he opened up another can of worms, right?  Weiner did.


MATTHEWS:  OK, here it is.  Phone—he was asked on this—the press are tough in New York.  We know.  You‘re laughing because I‘m telling you the press in New York...

STEELE:  No, no.  I‘m...

MATTHEWS:  ... are SOBs when it comes to this stuff.

STEELE:  No.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  First question.  Phone sex, which means having some form of self-sex while you‘re on the phone with somebody else doing the same thing.  We all know the—well, not everybody.  They know now, this term.  He wouldn‘t deny it, just like he wouldn‘t—Luke Russert last week saying, I can‘t say without (SIC) certitude those pictures aren‘t...

FINEMAN:  No, he essentially admitted it.  And...

MATTHEWS:  Thank you for translating Anthony Weiner!



MATTHEWS:  He essentially admitted it by saying, I won‘t deny it.

FINEMAN:  Yes, he admitted it.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where he‘s at right now.

FINEMAN:  Yes, he admitted it.  And you know, with every passing year, you hear in press conferences questions that you never thought you‘d ever hear asked.


FINEMAN:  OK, but we are in a different world now, and public figures are in a different world.  A famous Internet executive said about 10 years ago, There‘s no such thing anymore as privacy.  Get used to it.  But powerful...

MATTHEWS:  Remember when it started?  Paul Taylor, “The Washington Post,” asking Gary Hart...

FINEMAN:  Right.  I was there.  I was there.

MATTHEWS:  ... “Have you ever had sex outside of marriage?”  And Ben Bradlee, the great, legendary editor of “The Post,” said you‘ve set back journalism 20 years.  No, Ben was wrong.  He predicted it 20 years later.

FINEMAN:  And this is the world I‘ve been covering for all these years, and powerful people assume that they can do things and get away with it and do things in private that other people cannot.  But the world has changed.



MATTHEWS:  ... because it‘s what you do when you‘re drinking beer and you assume nobody else is paying attention to you.

STEELE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  And these guys—how do they get into this...


MATTHEWS:  Weiner‘s a sharp guy.

STEELE:  Well, with Weiner, but look at the—he has this relationship with the press where he‘s gone out and he‘s done the partisan game very well and he beats people up when he‘s not the target of that discussion.  Now that he is, he has a taste now of the press really coming at the story.  It‘s not about you and our relationship, it‘s the story.

But this is the other thing that Howard touched on, I think, is a dynamic politically, as well as how we are socially.  Information is there.  You cannot get away from it.


STEELE:  You go to the store.  Someone‘s taking a photo of you.

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE)  You take a picture with an old Kodak camera, even a Polaroid.  It was yours.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  It physically existed...

FINEMAN:  Not today.

MATTHEWS:  ... in your being.  You could throw it in the trash can and it would never come back.  Today, we take phone pictures—people do it with us.  We‘re on television.  You know they always do it to all of us.  They take a phone picture of us.  I figure that‘s not going to sit in that phone.  It‘s immediately sent to somebody, right?

STEELE:  Absolutely.

FINEMAN:  But here‘s the answer.  In this new world, nothing is hidden.  That means all the more that if you want to be a leader, you have to be honest because...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have to be a real -- 24/7...


FINEMAN:  That‘s true, but you have to be honest about it because the proof is going to be there.  There‘s no way to hide.

MATTHEWS:  Forever.

FINEMAN:  Forever.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at—here‘s more of Weiner today and his amazing confession.  It was late today.  It was supposed to be at 4:00 o‘clock.  It came a bit after 4:00 Eastern time, right before we went on with HARDBALL tonight. It‘s one of those amazing stories, like if you ever saw “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the bad senator finally said, Everything he said is true.  It took him only a week.  Here‘s Weiner talking, finally.


WEINER:  I‘m deeply ashamed of my terrible judgment and actions.  I came here to the accept full responsibility for what I‘ve done.


WEINER:  I am deeply regretting what I have done, and I am not resigning.


MATTHEWS:  OK, I want to do—I‘m not going to do this tonight, but I‘m going to do this maybe later in the show.  I might do it.  A week of lying to the press, reporters just doing—some of the job that we do isn‘t grand.  This isn‘t about what we should be talking about tonight, the debt ceiling, and America‘s bond rating right now...

STEELE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  ... and the trouble we‘re in as a country.  But this is news.  Here‘s a major figure who, as you pointed out, plays a partisan role.  He‘s like Bernie Sanders.  All during the fight over the budget, he was as reliable as a lamp post.

STEELE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  A light went on at night.  At 6:30 at night, the light went on.

STEELE:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  This guy was always there.  Blaming it on Breitbart, this -

this conservative guy...

STEELE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... blaming it on hacking, blaming it—and now saying it was all consensual.  Now, his latest defenses are, he didn‘t have sex outside of his marriage.  He didn‘t physically meet these people.  But then he got into the problem, if you never physically met them, how do you know they‘re of age?

STEELE:  Right.  Right.  And that...

MATTHEWS:  And he‘ll never—and won‘t deny having phone sex.

STEELE:  And again...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s building more tunnels to more stories.

STEELE:  That‘s what struck me about the press conference.  First off, you get to a point where you hit that plateau and you can‘t say or do anything more that‘s going to change...

MATTHEWS:  Why‘d he have a 40-minute press conference?

STEELE:  That I have yet to figure out.  Well, that‘s what happens when you do your own press.  And so I think the reality right now is he‘s opened up more doors and questions about his behavior...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he gave us six women.  Now, every one of those six women will be trailed tonight...

STEELE:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  ... in this news cycle, and they‘ll feel free.  He‘s also said his wife—Huma is her name?


STEELE:  Huma.

MATTHEWS:  ... Huma, who works at the White House (SIC), a very trusted intimate aide of Hillary Clinton, a very major figure in American government right now, the State Department—that she knew about this stuff going on when he married her.  So he‘s dragged her into this story...

STEELE:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... that she‘s now a knowledgeable party to this stuff.

STEELE:  That‘s why you come out with...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sure she‘s happy about that.

STEELE:  ... a prepared statement and you read from that statement, you answer two questions, and you‘re gone because then you open...


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at (INAUDIBLE) these pictures (INAUDIBLE) These are not the grossest pictures in history.  This is just more (INAUDIBLE) Here‘s more—well I‘m being directed to go from the picture.  Here‘s what Weiner said when was asked if all the women he was involved with on FaceBook and in Twitter were adults and not minors.  Let‘s listen.


WEINER:  I don‘t know the exact ages of the women.  And I don‘t know

if you do.  I‘m going to respect their privacy.  But they were all adults,

at least to the best of my knowledge.  They were all adults and they were -

and they were—and they were engaging in these conversations consensually.


MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s the down side.  How many adult women do this? 

It‘s probably—who knows.

FINEMAN:  He doesn‘t know.  You don‘t know.  As it‘s said, you know, the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.  A politician who does his own advising on how to handle an issue like this is a fool.  And as you said, he opened all these new lines of inquiry.

He hung his wife out to dry here by saying she was, you know, knowledgeable about this beforehand.  Questions are going to be asked of her.  She‘s a private person.  She‘s a very elegant person.  I know her.  The last thing in the world she ever wants to do is have to deal with this kind of thing.  I‘ve never seen, in this particular way, a career blow itself up totally the way he just did.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m not sure he has.  Well, what do you think?

FINEMAN:  Oh, I think he has.  I think he has just because there are too many other lines of inquiry.  There are too many other questions to be asked about what actually happened.  Certainly, any thought he had of running for mayor, he can forget.  Whether he can remain in Congress—maybe.  He thinks he can wait this out.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t...


FINEMAN:  ... because you don‘t know what all the—you don‘t know what all the facts are.

STEELE:  This story...

MATTHEWS:  Well, your party never has a candidate in districts like that in New York.  These are one-party districts, right?

STEELE:  But that—but they are largely.  But to this point, it‘s not relevant here because the reality of it is, is even if he stays in Congress, this story does not go away...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s a...


MATTHEWS:  You‘re smart.  Let‘s try to do this non-politically.  Well, politically, but nonpartisan.  It seems to me that we all grew up with the Jonah and the whale story.  Jonah‘s in the boat, the whale wants him, right?  As long as he‘s in that boat, the boat‘s in trouble, OK?  So you‘re Pelosi, you‘re Chuck Schumer, his mentor.

STEELE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re Gillibrand, you‘re any of his close associates.  Do you want him as a close associate?

STEELE:  You tell him to resign.  You go to him quietly and you say resign.

MATTHEWS:  Because if you‘re Steve Israel, who I have a salute on this show is a brilliant DCCC...


MATTHEWS:  ... campaign manager, the head of the campaign, and he‘s get to get all these guys in places like Utah reelected, in Kansas reelected.  Now you got this guy in Brooklyn, way out here, big city, they don‘t like the big city to begin with.

FINEMAN:  He‘s also embarrassed—he‘s also embarrassed them.  As he himself said, he‘s embarrassed his own supporters and voters.

MATTHEWS:  How about his colleagues?

FINEMAN:  Well, his colleagues for sure.


MATTHEWS:  ... seen Schumer all week.  Haven‘t seen Schumer all week.

STEELE:  And why?  Because he doesn‘t want to have to answer the questions.

FINEMAN:  Now, on another level, this is a very...

MATTHEWS:  OK, where‘s this guy, finally?  Political analysis.  If it was a member of your party, where would this go next?  We‘ve seen Vitter survive.  I don‘t know how in hell that happened!

STEELE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Ensign gone down the toilet.  Bill Clinton has to live with this as part of his record.  I think it‘s a minority part, but it‘s there.  These people...

STEELE:  But survivability‘s a relative thing because there does come an end point.  Even with the Vitters of the world, there does come an end point.  Ensign just realized that end point.  He will realize that end point, as well, in his district.

MATTHEWS:  Is he gone?

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I think it‘s too problematic for the Democrats...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank—well, we got the experts here.  Thank you.  I think he will try to contend his next primary.  And I think if he wins the primary, he‘ll stick around.  But I think—I haven‘t thought about the colleague problem.  They may just say, We don‘t want you here.

STEELE:  Well, I think—the other side, Chris, before you go, is the Breitbart piece to me is also fascinating because he relied on the old canard about blaming...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know.

STEELE:  ... the conservatives.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Breitbart will get (INAUDIBLE) Breitbart will get the sidebars all over the place tomorrow.

STEELE:  And he was really—he could choke down that...


MATTHEWS:  Breitbart is certainly a mixed bag, but we‘ll see.  We‘ll see.  Thank you, Howard Fineman.  Thank you, Michael Steele.  Pros on tonight.  What a “Bonfire of the Vanities” story this is!

Coming up: Congressman Weiner says he‘s not resigning.  Let‘s get to the real politics of this.  We got to admit (ph) it, this guy just blew himself up.  Will the collateral damage be too much for Nancy Pelosi, for the rest of the party, or are they going to say, This guy will sink our ship and chances of getting back the House?  Remember, that‘s their goal, winning.  Our strategists tackle that when we come right back.



MATTHEWS:  In other news, Sarah Palin‘s grabbing the headlines, but today it‘s Rick Santorum officially getting into the race.  There he is.  The former Pennsylvania senator, eaten by 20 points last time, announced his candidacy near the coal mines in southwestern Pennsylvania, where his grandfather once worked.  Santorum, a staunch social conservative, served two terms in the Senate before getting trounced in 2006 by Bob Casey, Jr.  Santorum lost that race by—I‘m sorry, it only by 17 points.

We‘ll be right back.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  As we reported, Congressman Anthony Weiner has now come clean, but he‘s not resigning, he says.  Why do some politicians like David Vitter of Louisiana and Bill Clinton survive sex scandals, and others like John Ensign and Eliot Spitzer do not, except he gets a job on some other network?  How big a problem could Weiner have if he tries to run for reelection?

Let‘s turn to our strategists right now, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican John Feehery.

Let‘s not get too far ahead of this breaking story.  Steve, there‘s a lot of big questions right now.


MATTHEWS:  He says now he told his wife he was doing this kind of phone whatever it was.  He won‘t deny phone sex, but some kind of textual sexual whatever he‘s doing, sending these pictures around of himself, all over his body, and cats and all this suggestive stuff.  Now he‘s admitted he‘s done all that, right, won‘t deny phone sex.  And then he says he‘s told his wife about it, as I said.  And then he says, I‘m not quitting.  It doesn‘t add up!

MCMAHON:  No, it doesn‘t add up.

MATTHEWS:  How do you admit the worst embarrassment and the biggest lie of your career and say, Oh, I‘m just moving on now?

MCMAHON:  Yes, well, I think that‘s what he hopes, but I don‘t think that‘s what he‘s going to see.  Somebody pointed out in the last segment that the New York media is about as ruthless as it gets, and he actually probably opened up a line of investigation on about 15 or 20 new things.

MATTHEWS:  List them.

MCMAHON:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Six women...


MCMAHON:  Each one of these six women, his wife, who supposedly was aware of this and—and...

MATTHEWS:  And she‘s not talking yet.

MCMAHON:  ... and allegedly forgave him.  And she wasn‘t talking and she wasn‘t there.  He wouldn‘t say where she was.  I mean, all the—all the things—I don‘t know why he answered 40 minutes‘ worth of questions.  I would have been better for him politically—and I think it‘s a disaster for him politically...


MATTHEWS:  Why‘d he tell the truth today after all these weeks of lying?

MCMAHON:  Well, because he had to.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  He had to because...

MCMAHON:  ... the truth was coming out.

MATTHEWS:  ... the pictures were out.

MCMAHON:  So he doesn‘t get really any credit...

MATTHEWS:  So he gets no credit for telling the truth.

MCMAHON:  ... for doing what he did because he had to do it.  It was coming out anyway.  And he opens up all these new lines of inquiry.  And I think in two weeks, if Anthony Weiner is still in Congress, I‘ll be surprised.

MATTHEWS:  Here he is talking about his wife.  Let‘s listen.


WEINER: My primary apology, as I have said several times, is to my wife, Huma.

But she—she made it very clear that she what I did was very dumb and she was not happy about it.  But she also—and she is very disappointed.  And she also told me that—that—that she—that she loved me and—and—and wanted us to—to—to—you know, to pull through this. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, politics is brutal. 

MCMAHON:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  And as much as I think this guy is dead wrong, I do—I feel for him.  I do feel for him, because nobody is perfect.  And this guy is showing his imperfections on national television 30 -- 30 barracuda in the room right now, including Breitbart, right?


MATTHEWS:  The guy who broke the story.

Your thoughts.  Is he done? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, you know, Eric Cantor was right last week when he said he felt for the wife.  And I think we all feel for his wife right now.

And I—you know, Democrats, think back to Gerry Studds...


MATTHEWS:  Yes, but he says his wife knew.  He laid it out on her. 

FEEHERY:  Well, I—which is a terrible, terrible mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe she is partly responsible, if she knew about it. 

MCMAHON:  She‘s not.  She‘s not. 


FEEHERY:  She‘s not responsible.


FEEHERY:  I mean, come on.  That‘s ridiculous. 

The fact of the matter is that he made tremendous errors.  But the fact is that Democrats in these types of things tend to stay in office.  Studds, Frank, Clinton, they just—they don‘t—they don‘t resign. 


MCMAHON:  Ensign.  Vitter. 

FEEHERY:  Well, I‘m talking...


FEEHERY:  There‘s a way you can stay in office.

MATTHEWS:  Why did he say—let‘s not—let‘s not blame her at all, but let‘s ask the question, why did he say he told her about this, that he was doing this? 

FEEHERY:  I have no idea.

MCMAHON:  I‘ll tell you why.  I‘ll tell you why.  Because he actually thinks—he is a guy who is very good with the media, usually, not the last 10 days.  And he is somebody who has been able to explain his way through, around or out of almost any problem or challenge that he‘s ever had politically. 

MATTHEWS:  So, he says, my wife and I sat around and talked about the fact that I would send embarrassing pictures of myself out, and I‘m doing that right until our wedding day, and then I‘m going to stop. 


MCMAHON:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  What kind of conversation is that? 

MCMAHON:  Weird.  It‘s weird.

FEEHERY:  Well, it‘s a painful one.  It‘s a very a painful one. 

MCMAHON:  It‘s a weird one.

FEEHERY:  This is a painful conversation that spouses have sometimes.

This is actually a very personal tragedy.  And you have got to feel for the wife. 


MATTHEWS:  You might be the youngest guy here.  Explain sexting and texting and all this stuff. 

FEEHERY:  I don‘t know sexting and texting. 


MATTHEWS:  What is this stuff? 


MCMAHON:  You know what? 

FEEHERY:  I don‘t know.


MATTHEWS:  What is this stuff?  Why do people...

FEEHERY:  I think for members of Congress to do this is idiotic. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s childish to begin with.

What is it about it?  Why don‘t people call each other and have a nice romantic conversation if they like each other?


MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Is it complicated?

FEEHERY:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  You used to call up and ask for dates.  Is it weird now?  You used to call up and say, how would you like go out when there‘s a movie Friday night?  I‘m sorry.  He was doing this before he was married.

MCMAHON:  You know, and I know I‘m here as a Democrat, and I apologize for not being like straight down the party line here. 

MATTHEWS:  There is no party line tonight on this. 


MCMAHON:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

The notion that this is a personal tragedy is only half-true, because it is not a personal tragedy when it‘s a member of Congress sends these out, and is begging to get caught, and who then argues with the media over the next 10 days, after he‘s caught, and says that it wasn‘t him, he was hacked, and blames everybody in the world but himself, and then comes clean. 

If it were a personal private tragedy, he would have quietly resigned, like so many others before him...


MATTHEWS:  What‘s his strategy in saying, I take full responsibility -

you know the phrase—the take full responsibility, but no particular responsibility, meaning—responsibility means you do something. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right. 


MATTHEWS:  Now, he is leaving it to voters of his district.  His district is in Brooklyn.  It‘s a liberal district obviously.  It‘s probably very diverse and used to voting about 90 percent Democrat.  So, he is not really worried. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s the strategy.  That‘s—his strategy was articulated when he said, I have been in politics for 20 years.  I have served for a long time.  The people of my district know me. 

He thinks they are going to forgive him.  And I think he is wrong. 

FEEHERY:  The issue on this is, what happens at the Ethics Committee? 

Do Democrats pile on and say, we need an investigation?


MATTHEWS:  What‘s the angle?

FEEHERY:  If Democrats pile on—because they‘re embarrassed by it and they don‘t to be—they want him to resign.  If Democrats decide, if Nancy Pelosi says to the...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me think about this. 

Older district—most Northern districts are older districts.  People younger move to other parts of the world.  Brooklyn is probably an old district.  Your typical voter is getting older, right?

The voter is 50-some, 60 years old.  They have got a Social Security problem.  They have got a disability.  They have got a problem at work.  They have got a labor rights problem.  They have got a civil rights problem. 

And they are thinking, this congressman is busting his hump for me.  I know he because he wrote me a really nice letter saying he was.  A staffer wrote that letter. 


MATTHEWS:  A machine signed his name. 


MATTHEWS:  Just a minute.

And now he finds out with this guy, who he thinks is helping him out with his personal case problem, which is so important to that person, it is life or death with them—are they going to get their health benefits paid for or not?  And now they found out that this guy is sitting around bored to death either on his laptop or on his—his BlackBerry, wasting time, pissing way time, if you will, when he‘s supposed to working.

And he said today, well, all my time is congressional.  They like to tell you, even when they take a week off, they‘re home working, right?


MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you, politically?  If you are one of his old district voters, what do they say?  Oh, thanks for helping me. 

MCMAHON:  Thanks for helping me. 

But Congressman Weiner‘s problem is that there are five or 10 or eight, you know, some number of people just like him, who are just as ambitious as he was...


MATTHEWS:  State reps.

MCMAHON:  ... who are clean and who have doing the same thing for their constituents in their states. 


MATTHEWS:  And they‘re ready to run.

MCMAHON:  And they‘re ready to run.


MATTHEWS:  And they like that $170,000 a year. 

MCMAHON:  Absolutely. 

FEEHERY:  And that‘s the thing about—that‘s the thing about the Ethics Committee and Nancy Pelosi. 

Pelosi can easily replace Weiner with another Democrat.  So, is she going to increase the pressure on him to get out?  And from what Steve tells me, she might likely do that.  And she will do it through the Ethics Committee. 


MCMAHON:  No, no, no, no, no, I didn‘t say that.



MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about shame.  Let‘s talk about shame. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s turn over the record to the human side.

Weiner is embarrassed.  He is a mensch to that extent.  He‘s a man who knows what embarrassment looks like.  He is not one of these shameless bums out there that just does horrible things and then walks past it and says, take it or leave it. 

He looks like he‘s taking it himself.  His wife‘s not there.  He is personally feeling this horrible thing.  He knows that everybody in America now knows about his weirdness, right? 


MATTHEWS:  So, I‘m trying to figure out where this takes us.  Where does that human quality take us now? 

FEEHERY:  Well...


FEEHERY:  Well, I mean, it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, the fact is, he isn‘t—is he like Spitzer, who is absolutely shameless and right on television every night, a big media star now on one of the networks?

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that guy has no shame. 

FEEHERY:  Well, if Weiner decides to resign, maybe he can get his own TV show.  We will see about that.


MATTHEWS:  But Spitzer, to his—I should say Spitzer did quit when he got caught.


MCMAHON:  I never thought I would sit here and say Eliot Spitzer is a profile in courage in this regard, but he did—with the exception...

MATTHEWS:  This guy showed more shame, but won‘t quit. 

MCMAHON:  Exactly.  He showed more shame, but won‘t quit because he thinks he can get through it. 

Eliot Spitzer actually did made it a private matter.  He quit.  He went away.  He sought counseling, apparently.  He worked it out with his wife.  And he came back.


MATTHEWS:  ... classy wife, too.


FEEHERY:  Right after the Clinton came through, there were a lot of Democrats who wanted Bill Clinton to quit.  Part of being a guy who survives is you got to tell yourself and tell your wife, I‘m going through it and I‘m going to survive. 

And that‘s what...


MATTHEWS:  Well, I think Bill Clinton deep, deep, deep down believed it had nothing to do with his effectiveness as president.  That‘s why...


FEEHERY:  Well, and Weiner will probably come to the same conclusion. 

The question is, will his colleagues?  And that‘s the big question. 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think the colleagues are going to try to push him out the door, because they don‘t want...


FEEHERY:  You might be right about that.

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t want to be on the Weiner ticket. 

MCMAHON:  They want to talk about Medicare.  They don‘t want to talk about—they want to talk about Paul Ryan. 


MATTHEWS:  No, this is Jonah and the whale. 

This is Weiner—they are on the Weiner ticket.  He will become the next bad guy of the Democratic Party. 

And your party will make him so. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you Steve. 

And thank you, John. 

I don‘t want to be too nonpartisan.


MATTHEWS:  We will be right back later with a lot more on this incredible Weiner story, Anthony Weiner story.

You know, you watch these things, and they finally, after all your supposition and all your suspicion, comes true.  Follow your instincts on these guys.  If you think they‘re crooks, if you think they‘re lying, go with it.  You got it?

Up next:  How good is Tina Fey‘s impersonation of Sarah Palin?  A little lighter moment, a palate cleaner.  Perfect.  She completely confused one of the TV networks.  Guess one—it has three letters and that actually add up to an actual thing, a FOX.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  


MATTHEWS:  Well, back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow” of the “Sideshow.” 

First up:  How good has teen Tina Fey‘s impression of Sarah Palin gotten?  Well, it‘s gotten so good that even FOX News was fooled by it.

Check it out.  Yesterday, host Shannon Bream was promoting Palin‘s interview with the network.  But take a closer look at the photo of Palin.  It is actually an image of Tina Fey doing her send-up at the vice president‘s debate.  Palin, of course, is a paid FOX contributor.  They ought to know her.  Tina Fey is of course the star of “30 Rock.”

Up next:  Is President Obama deliberately trying to raise gas prices?  Well, that‘s the incredible, the ludicrous line being pushed by Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.  Here he is with Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation.”


BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, “FACE THE NATION”:  Somebody told me that you actually said this week you think that the president is trying to drive up energy policy—energy prices on purpose.  Did you say that?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  No question about that.  I mean, this administration policies clearly has been to drive up the cost of energy so Americans would use less of it.  That‘s environmental policy.  That‘s not energy policy.  But that‘s their policy. 



Well, regardless of the public policy question, any president,, including this one, facing reelection a year before would lower gas prices, not higher gas prices.  High gas prices have been a killer politically, especially of presidents. 

Finally, Rudy Giuliani gets in the presidential race, this time down in Peru.  Rudy joined on as an adviser last month to the campaign of Peruvian candidate Keiko Fujimori.  She is the daughter of the imprisoned former president. 

So, did Giuliani help make the difference?  Well, the answer in English and in Spanish is the same.  No.  Fujimori today conceded defeat to her leftist opponent.  Let‘s see if Rudy fares any better in the coming home games. 

Up next: much more on the big story of the day.  And it is the hottest story that, late this afternoon on the East Coast, Anthony Weiner admits finally, after a week of lying, that he sent all those lewd photos.  He is 100 percent, 1000 percent guilty as charged.  But he says he refuses to quit. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL.  Boy, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


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

Another losing session, making it four in a row now, the Dow Jones industrials falling 61 points, the S&P 500 shedding 14, and the Nasdaq tumbling by 30. 

Banks and energy stocks were weaker today, as investors absorbed Friday‘s disappointing jobs report.  Big banks were already under pressure after Moody‘s warned that ratings downgrades could be on the horizon if the government eases back on support for that sector. 

Meanwhile, the Manhattan district attorney has subpoenaed Goldman Sachs, looking for more information on its mortgage and derivatives business.  The tech sector took some hits today, as Sony and Nintendo reported hacking attacks.  And Apple also moved lower on the first day of its developers conference, after unveiling its new iCloud music streaming service. 

And a pretty quite M&A Monday, but we did have International Paper putting in hostile $3.3 billion bid for smaller rival Temple-Inland.

And that‘s it from CNBC.  We are first in business worldwide—back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

We are back with more on the biggest story of the day, maybe of the month, Anthony Weiner admitting that everything he was accused of last week is true.  This is out of a movie.  It‘s sort of a Perry Mason moment, that he did send that Twitter photo to a woman in Washington State last week, and he has been carrying on sexting—sexting relationships with a number of women, he said a half-dozen, since his wedding. 

Richard Wolffe is—Richard Wolffe is with us and “Mother Jones”‘ David Corn, are both MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, I want to ask you about this thing, because—maybe because—I‘m going to try to understand why this looks so bad for Anthony Weiner, even though I do feel for him as a person.  All these days, he has denied flatly he had anything to do with it, blamed it on Breitbart, the right-wing guy, the blogger, and all that, blamed it, blamed it, blamed it, and said, leave me alone.  It is the press‘ craziness and all that, told Luke Russert, well, maybe, maybe it is possible. 

Is this—what is now a firing offense in politics?  He didn‘t get caught with another woman.  He didn‘t get involved in even anything to do with public money.  He didn‘t get involved in anything to do with having relations with a lobbyist, for example, which is usually killer.  Sex-plus, they call it in the old days. 

It is just sort of a high school-level embarrassment.  Like, your parents go in your room and you—see you are doing this kind ever stuff.  It‘s almost to me on that level.  Like, this is grody, gross, to use a—grody, and there‘s another kid‘s term. 

Is this a firing offense if it just came out that he was—because Chris Lee, the guy from Upstate New York, quit that day.  And, of course, the Democrats celebrated his defeat. 

Your thoughts.  What is a firing offense?  What makes this gross enough?

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:   He obviously doesn‘t think it is a firing offense because he is not quitting. 

MATTHEWS:  Well...

WOLFFE:  But there is an embarrassment level here that is going to be very hard for him to maintain public trust and responsibility. 

His colleagues are not going to want to have anything to do with him.  What kind of public example does he set for kids who want to get into politics?


MATTHEWS:  You can still be a kid.  He is basically saying you can still be a kid. 

WOLFFE:  There are more photos here.  The problem is—and there are photos out there that are going to come out. 

MATTHEWS:  Apparently a gross one.


WOLFFE:  Those photos are going to make this—make this seem live and repeated with each new photo. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is incredible.  Look at him, putting out his chest to somebody.  Well, I don‘t even...


MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  This is a digital scandal.  We used to have real sex scandals with real sex and with presidents. 


MATTHEWS:  So, we are now in the real—we are now in the virtual world. 


CORN:  If you compare with what he did to what Bill Clinton did or what Senator Vitter did, it is kind different, kind of the same. 

And which one is worse?  People can make their own judgments.  But California just soldiered on.  David Vitter soldiered on, won reelection.


MATTHEWS:  But let me draw the distinction there.  He wasn‘t out there soliciting active sex with somebody, like Chris Lee was.  He wasn‘t out there...


WOLFFE:  John Edwards.  It was only last week we were talking about John Edwards. 


WOLFFE:  There may be a difference, but...


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s old-time sex. 

CORN:  Yes. 

WOLFFE:  All of it is immoral.  All of it is unfaithful.  None of it is a good example...


MATTHEWS:  But what about the old argument?


MATTHEWS:  By the way, you have a British accent, so I will go to that.  It used to be the British were the ones involved with kinky problems.  The Americans were involved with stealing money. 


MATTHEWS:  The Americans are catching up in the kinky department. 

WOLFFE:  And in the old country, you know, this is pretty tame.  But you know what?  It is still wrong.  It‘s still embarrassing.  People still lose...


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at Weiner here when he was asked if he engaged in phone sex between—I think people have figured out what that is. 

Let‘s listen. 


WEINER: I am reluctant to their privacy, and since their names are coming out, of characterizing our exchanges, except that they were consensual.  But I‘m not going to—I‘m not going to rebut anything or dispute anything that any of the women who have come forward have said.  They have every right to do so.  And so, I‘m not make any efforts to characterize those conversations.


MATTHEWS:  Poor choice of words, con sexual, because that—it goes, the next word is sex.  And consensual, that‘s Strauss-Kahn‘s defense.


MATTHEWS:  What does it mean to say, I don‘t want to characterize a phone conversation?

Because it was a phone conversation, we already know that.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think it was a sexy phone conversation and he will say to protect their privacy, I‘m not going to into detail.  And he is leaving it to voters of his district to decide if this is, you know, game on, game out.


MATTHEWS:  That one of them is 17 or 16 years old.  Is this just the final—

CORN:  Well, that‘s the case

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  And I suppose that is final nail (ph).  The only way to stop—it‘s not to answer every question.  The only way it stop this is to leave the public stage.

CORN:  The photos will still come out.  I mean, I think there‘s a constituent here who we haven‘t really heard from, and we won‘t, and that is his wife.  If she wants him to fight on, he might—

MATTHEWS:  He said she is with him.

CORN:  Well, we don‘t know.  We can‘t -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look.  She may not want the story to keep going.  It may have legs.  Let‘s take a look—he says now that he didn‘t break the law.  These are denials that really relate because no one said he did.  Let‘s listen.


WEINER:  I don‘t believe that I did anything here that violates any law or violate my oath to my constituents.  What I did was something that demonstrated a very deep personal failing and that‘s why I‘m here to apologize.


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to the amazing thing.  Spitzer went on and basically another New Yorker, who is a mixed bag, like we are all, I think I am—and everybody is a mixed bag.

CORN:  Some more mixed than others.

MATTHEWS:  Well, mixed nuts, sometimes.

Spitzer went on TV and didn‘t seem ashamed of himself particularly.  In fact, he‘s on TV a couple of months later as a big media star in prime-time.  But he gave up the governorship of New York, pretty much lickety-split.  This guy comes on and looks to me, as a human being, very embarrassed.  I think he‘s very embarrassed.  He has a wonderful wife apparently, a bride he has—he just got married.  Very embarrassed and yet he‘s not doing nothing except admitting it.

CORN:  Well, this is what politicians have done.  You had John Ensign in the Senate.  He didn‘t resign right away.

WOLFFE:  No photos.

CORN:  No photos, that‘s right.

You had David Vitter, we had phone records, but no photos.  You had Bill Clinton, no photos, but very, very explicit evidence in the special prosecutor‘s report.

I mean, politicians, I think, decide which way they‘re going to go.

MATTHEWS:  This is why people don‘t like politicians.

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Rolling disclosure.  I want everybody to learn that phrase.  Rolling disclosure means you release the information when it‘s convenient to you.  In this case, convenient when you had no choice.

CORN:  Well, he had no choice.

WOLFFE:  Well, trust and credibility are all that politicians have.  That‘s why people are disillusioned with politicians.  They don‘t trust any of them.  You go out and lie about this.  You go out and pretend that, you know, you‘re having a happy married life.  You know, that‘s why they don‘t have credibility on this or anything else.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you, guys.  Thank you, Richard Wolffe.  Thanks for coming on.

Thank you, David Corn, as always.

Up next: Republicans in the House of Representatives want to cut food aid to school kids.  That‘s going to go over well.  And Academy Award winning actor Jeff Bridges—why does my favorite actor have to show off on a night like this?  He‘s coming here next.  I‘m so embarrassed.  I can‘t wait to meet him.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  You know, in the press conference, Anthony Weiner said that he told his wife about his misbehavior with regard to this texting and sexting and all that other stuff, putting a bit the blame on her, I don‘t think that‘s fair.  I hope I didn‘t give the impression that I agree with that.  I certainly don‘t.

This is his problem.  People love people.  They married them despite their faults, not—including themselves with their fault.

We‘ll be right back with this more of this amazing show.  We‘ll be right back.



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was, of course, is the great Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” where he really did sing those songs for which he did win the Academy Award.  We‘re all rooting for him.

And here he is, one of my favorites, opposite Haley Steinfeld in the Oscar nominated “True Grit.”  Another great movie.


HALEY STEINFIELD, ACTRESS:  Papa took me and Little Frank coon hunting last summer on Petit Jean.  We were in the woods all night.  We sat around a big fire and Yarnell told ghost stories.  We had a good time.

JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR:  Coon hunting!  This ain‘t no coon hunt.


MATTHEWS:  With that cards.  Anyway, Jeff Bridges in an anti-hunger advocate.  He joins us here with Bill Shore, a great friend of mine.  Shore is founder and director of Share Our Strength.  Jeff Bridges, a national spokesperson for that group, No Kid Hungry campaign.

You know, on the night of full, wall to wall, 24/7 sleaze, we got to do something nice for people tonight.

So, Jeff Bridges, you‘re one of my heroes, ever since you had a problem with Cybill Shepherd in the last picture show, and everybody rooted for you there, “Jagged Edge” and “The Big Lebowski,” Crazy Heart,” congratulations.

BRIDGES:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS:  So, let‘s talk about you‘re here to talk about.  What do you care about?

BRIDGES:  No Kid Hungry, that‘s why we‘re here.  And we are kicking off the No Kid Hungry campaign here in Virginia.  We‘ll be doing that tomorrow with Governor McDonnell.

MATTHEWS:  You got a Republican.

BRIDGES:  Man, well, he‘s been that, you know, he‘s been concerned with the hunger issues for over 20 years now.  But it‘s a bipartisan thing.  We got to end child hungry here in our country.  It‘s gone crazy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Billy, you talked about, what I understand, this is kids that are impoverished home situations.  Parents aren‘t responsible.  They don‘t have any money.  They go to school and they get at least a decent lunch, many a breakfast.

How many kids are like that, that their only good meals were at school?

BILL SHORE, “SHARE OUR STRENGTH”:  Well, we got 20 million kids who have reduced price school lunch, but only 9 million are getting breakfast.  Even though 20 million are eligible, only 3 million are getting meals in the summer time.  So, one of the things that we‘re doing is talking about this period where the kids are vulnerable in the summer because that schools are closed.  So, you got to set up alternative sites.

The irony, Chris, is—and I think this is Washington‘s best kept billion-dollar secret, the money is appropriated.  And these are entitlement programs.  Not the entitlement programs that drive the national debt.  The entitlement programs that say Democrats and Republicans say kids shouldn‘t be the victims when the economy changes.

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s an old tradition of Southern Democrats who are conservative as hell, but they always believe in things like Social Security and they do believe in things like meals on wheels.

BRIDGES:  Absolutely.  Yes, absolutely.  Governor McDonnell, it‘s so great to have him on board, because it signals come on, this is a bipartisan issue here, and we‘re trying to get, you know, everybody on board because that‘s what it‘s going to take to end it.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s it cost to feed a kid, you know?

BRIDGES:  A year, you mean?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  What do these meals cost?  It‘s all surplus food, a lot of it, isn‘t it?

SHORE:  Well, the federal government, through programs like school breakfasts and school lunch probably $50 billion or $60 billion a year.  But again, that‘s really a fraction of, you know, what drives most budget considerations.  It‘s really not very much.

And $1 billion of it is allocated, but untapped.  And so, all we‘re saying is, not create a federal program, take the programs that exist, get more kids enrolled, this is the only meal that most kids get.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about you, why did you pick this issue?  Because you—you know, I never thought you as a country star, but you certainly come across that movie in “Crazy Heart.”  That‘s one hell of a regular guy, the booze problem and all that stuff and identify with this.

BRIDGES:  Maybe that‘s it, man.  Maybe I‘m just a regular guy.  You know, I love people.  You know, I‘m a family man.  I got kids of my own.  I can imagine what it would be like not to be able to feed my kids.

So, when you know the facts that there‘s, you know, every one of every four of our children in this country struggle with hunger, and you know it doesn‘t have to be that way, that there are programs to prevent that, to stop that, I want to do everything I can to make that a reality.

MATTHEWS:  Where are you going after Virginia?

BRIDGES:  Well, you know, California is up to be one of our next states.  I‘m going up to Montana.  You mentioned the music.  I‘m putting a band together.  I‘m going up there and I got—my hometown up there, Bodesman (ph) and Livingstone, that area.  I want to get the No Kid Hungry program working up there.

SHORE:  We‘re in 13 states.  We‘ll be in 20, I think, by the end of this year.  So Jeff has driven a lot of growth of this.

MATTHEWS:  We have a 9 percent unemployment right now.  We have underemployment about 17 percent.  What‘s that do when the kids not eating?

BRIDGES:  That‘s a huge problem.  But, you know, the whole program -

poverty and hunger—they‘re very related.  Poverty is pretty complex, man.  There are a lot of ins and outs on that one.


But, you know, hunger, we‘ve got the programs in place.  And that was a matter of getting the message out to the people, you know?  For instance, here in Virginia, the folks can call 211 to find out where there are sites that will feed their kids during the summer because summer—

MATTHEWS:  So, each program already exists and all you have to do is let the kids know and the parents can get them there and you can feed them.

BRIDGES:  Yes, absolutely.  And we also are encouraging governors and mayors to get on board, to make sure that there‘s more sites.  Because one of the big problems is getting transportation to these sites.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re a good man.  You‘re a good man.  I am so impressed by your career, and I tell you, I can‘t say enough.  I think you‘re great.

BRIDGES:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just a fan.  I‘m just a fan.

Let me ask you this, are you voting in this election?  Are you going to take sides on that one?

BRIDGES:  Oh, yes, I go with the pres, you know?  Obama, he is one of the reasons we got this No Kid Hungry campaign going in the first place.  He said, I intend to end childhood hunger in this country by 2015, and all the nongovernment organizations, everybody is getting behind him, and we‘re going to do it.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I grow up with this guy, you know what I did, Lloyd Bridges “Sea Hunt” every Saturday night.  Lloyd Bridges, Beau Bridges, your brother, the fabulous “Baker Boys.”

BRIDGES:  “Baker Boys.”

MATTHEWS:  Great stuff.  Michelle Pfeiffer.  Killer. Thank you very much.

BRIDGES:  All right.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you both.

SHORE:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s an honor.  Thank you very much.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with what I think is going on in the Republican presidential field.  There is extra life beyond Weiner—and how Sarah Palin, she is going to be the king, she‘s the new Tammany boss of the Republican Party.  She‘s going to pick the winner, I think, in the Republican side.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with June 6th, D-Day.  The Republican campaign has hit the beach.  A week from now, the candidates, six of them, face off in the first real debate of 2012.

Here is what I think is going on in the inside: Sarah Palin, what she‘s doing instead of running for president, she‘s playing Tammany Hall political boss.  Her agenda: knock off Mitt Romney.  She‘s got real problems with him.

One, she doesn‘t want him to win.  Not Mitt Romney.  Not him running the country for eight years.  I can give you several reasons, can you list them yourself.  Look at his background, look at hers.  Do you really think he‘s her kind of Republican?  No way.

She showed a bit of this attitude last week going to New Hampshire and big-footing Mitt on press coverage, knock him right off the ball park.  That bus of hers has rolled right over his chili fest.

Next on her agenda?  Knock off Michele Bachmann.  The congresswoman from Minnesota is getting in the race, showing up for next Monday‘s first big debate.  She‘s a real life candidate and Sarah wants her off the scope.

This is roller derby politics.  Palin is out to knock both Mitt and Bachmann off the course.

Here‘s how she does it—she backs the alternative Romney in the regular Republican Party, Tim Pawlenty, the ex-governor of Minnesota, who happens to be the active alternative Bachmann among the religious right, Tea Party factions.

This is where it gets intriguing, even fascinating.  Can someone with Palin‘s chops go out there and work this thing for Pawlenty, someone so obviously without those chops?  Can she get, put a tiger in this guy‘s tank?  Better yet, can she be that tiger?  This is wild.

If Palin pulls it off, Pawlenty of Minnesota can win the caucuses in its Southern neighbor Iowa.  He can win among his fellow evangelists in South Carolina, starting along the way a hard campaign against the deep-pocketed Romney right across the country.  It would be Romney/Pawlenty or Pawlenty/Romney onward to the national convention in Tampa.

If Palin fails to light Pawlenty in Iowa and Bachmann wins out there, then Bachmann goes to New Hampshire.  Good enough to make a decent showing there, and then head down to South Carolina, and win there, setting up a Romney versus Bachmann race all the way to Tampa.

This is how it looks right now as we approach the first debate.  I‘m counting on the debate to make the difference.  If Bachmann can do well, if she can be a start in a big candidates‘ night next Monday, she will be the one to watch.  If not, bet on Palin working her magic and knocking off, first, Bachmann and then Romney.

I don‘t think the Republican Party can nominate anyone to the left of Pawlenty.  That leaves it to him, or Bachmann—another way of saying Palin or Bachmann.  I love this stuff.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.



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