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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Ed Rendell, Steve Schmidt, Chris Cillizza, Michael Eric Dyson, Jen Psaki, Willie Brown, Peter Wallsten, Alex Burns

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Top 1 percent quadruple their money.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off
tonight: Has Obama finally got the wind at his back? For months, we`ve
been watching President Obama`s tough reelection prospects. Now we`ve
spotted some cause, believe it or not, for some real optimism. The
president`s approval numbers are inching up, and a poll just out today has
him still beating all comers in Ohio -- that`s a key state -- despite all
the debates and all the GOP publicity.

And Republicans can`t seem to settle on a candidate because it seems
they really don`t like any of them. Maybe the president`s non-campaign
campaign speeches are also helping.

One reason President Obama may have more of the public on his side is
this "New York Times" headline, devastating news. It says it all. Quote,
"It`s official. The rich get richer." A new non-partisan report shows
that over the past three decades -- that`s the last 30 years now -- the top
1 percent of earners nearly quadrupled their income, more than doubled --
this is the key fact -- doubled their share of the country`s wealth.

And a "New York Times"/CBS poll out today says that 69 percent of
Americans believe Republican policies favor the rich. So exactly who is
guilty of class warfare?

Also, Rick Perry`s poll numbers are dropping into Michele Bachmann
territory, which is practically nothing, which may explain why he`s dug
that old birther stink bomb out of the basement. And now two big-name
Republicans -- grown-ups, if you will -- Jeb Bush and Haley Barbour, have
told him, Rick Perry, Please stop it already. You`re helping Obama get

And the latest news on Marco Rubio`s family history doesn`t help the
Florida senator. Visa documents reportedly now show his parents not only
came to the U.S. back in `56, a couple years before Castro, but they
applied to live here permanently. They weren`t just visiting and wanted to
go home back to Cuba.

Finally, how many positions can Mitt Romney have on one issue? You
guess, and you`re going to have to still keep counting. We`re going to go
to the videotape on the "Sideshow" to try to keep up with the count.

We begin with the possibility that for the first time in months --
months -- President Obama may have the wind at his back politically. Ed
Rendell was the two-term governor of Pennsylvania and Steve Schmitt was the
somewhat less successful senior strategist of the McCain campaign.


MATTHEWS: Both are MSNBC political analysts. Ed Rendell is smiling,
Steve Schmidt is not.

The "New York Times"/CBS poll has President Obama`s approval number
even now, 56-50 -- actually -- couldn`t be that -- 46-46. Last month, this
poll had him approval -- approved by 43 percent, disapproved by 50. So if
you add up the changes, a 7-point uptick.

President Obama`s approval numbers are now far better than Congress.
I`d say! The approval now for Congress is 9 percent positive -- that`s 1
in 11 -- and disapproval 84 percent. Nobody but far-right people seem to
like the Congress.

Let me go to Governor Rendell. It seems like the president has found
a sparring partner, the villain he likes. That`s Congress. Nobody doesn`t
think it`s smart tactically that he says, OK, I may not be perfect, but
look at the bums I`m up against in Congress, who say no to everything.

think he`s been on the uptick since his speech on the jobs bill. He
delivered a simple, straight message. He made it clear to the American
people that these were things that the Republicans had supported before,
and the only reason if they don`t support them now is politics. The
Republicans played right into his hand.

If I were the Republican Congress, I would have immediately said,
We`re going to work with the president. We`re not going to pass all of
this, but we`re going to pass some of it. We`re going to pass
infrastructure. We`re going to pass tax credits for veterans. We`re going
to pass continuing the tax cut on payroll deduction. That would have been
a mature response.

But they look terrible. They look obstructionist. He looks like a
leader. He`s on his way. I said three weeks ago that Governor Romney
would probably carry Pennsylvania, were the election held back then. Now,
if the election were held today, President Obama would carry Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Steve Schmidt. I want to you to just review
when the governor just said, that I`m looking at a 10-point shift in the
generic number. All of a sudden, people want Democrats running the
Congress. I mean, it seems to back up the fact that the president`s
upticked a bit to even money now.

everybody looks at in the campaigns is the RealClearPolitics average of
polls, the poll of polls, if you will.


SCHMIDT: And what that number shows is the president at a 43 percent
approval rating. It`s a very vulnerable number. But I think what this
shows is there`s been a lot of early dancing in the end zone for

This is going to be a very tough race. The Republican Congress is
unpopular. And in fact, the election is not a referendum on Barack Obama,
the election is a choice between President Obama and a Republican
alternative. And he`s going to run a campaign that puts sharp differences
between these two sides in front of the American people. And while he`s
vulnerable, it`s certainly not a foregone conclusion that he`s unelectable.

MATTHEWS: But wasn`t it--

SCHMIDT: I think a lot of Republicans--

MATTHEWS: Wasn`t Truman--

SCHMIDT: -- are dancing early on that.

MATTHEWS: I`m looking at the example of Truman. You start here,
Governor. Back in `48, the classic example of a -- of an upset was Harry
Truman tying Dewey, who was not much of a candidate, the governor of New
York, to the do-nothing Congress. I mean, he wouldn`t let him loose.

RENDELL: Sure. I mean, he hardly mentioned Governor Dewey`s name, he
just kept beating up on the Congress. And look, one of the things that`s
important -- it`s not just negative. He`s starting to look more like a
leader, Chris. He`s starting to talk about things that resonate with
people. He`s starting to deliver a simple message. "Pass this bill" was a
great -- whoever thought up that, it was a great, simple and direct
message. If you want to create jobs, pass this bill. Anybody who doesn`t
is obstructionist.

I mean, they`re doing things well. I think, substantively, the nation
needs parts of this bill desperately, but I think, politically, they`ve
been the best they`ve ever been.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you think that -- I know, Steve, you`re on the show
to defend the Republican view. I don`t expect you to say, yes, you`re
right. But don`t you think it`s been a hard sell for people like Eric
Cantor, who put all his money on the Tea Party, those guys in the House,
and women, who basically said, No, no, no, stuck together as a phalanx of
no-ness, no-ness, no-ness on everything.

And look at the -- I don`t think people like the looks of people that
won`t deal. They know a deal has to be struck. Is that your view, or is
that wrong in your eyes?

SCHMIDT: No, I -- look, that is my view. And in fact, you know, the
big political story of the last couple of years has been the collapse of
support for the president in the middle of the electorate. And you know,
his numbers have turned sharply negative, you know, with the middle of the

Now, I think that`s up for grabs in an election, and the Republican
Party has to have a positive message, has to have an economic growth
message. Clearly, the Congress has not done a good job of either A, having
one or B, communicating it. And I think you can judge that by the 9
percent approval levels there.

I think it`s going to be the job of the presidential candidate, and it
typically is, to have a positive message, an affirmative vision for moving
the country forward.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

SCHMIDT: And absent that, the job of the president becomes that much
easier because if our campaign on the Republican side is going to be trying
to find synergies with all this looniness out there -- the birther comments
that Governor Perry made, for example -- you know, the admonitions by
Governor Barbour, by Governor Bush are exactly right. That`s helping the
president get elected. And we`ve had a dearth of positive proposals on the
Republican side, frankly.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think they sound like idiots when they talk about
the birther stuff. And I mean -- I don`t like the word "idiot" because
we`re all about reasonably the same--

SCHMIDT: They do.

MATTHEWS: -- intelligence, but they sound like numbskulls to keep
talking about something that`s clearly not true. It never was. Even --
even Trump, I think, has to have surrogates now like Perry go out and sell
this garbage.

Anyway, today in Denver, President Obama rolled out his plan to help
graduates repay student loans. And boy, is that a hot issue with people in
their 20s. He pointed out the Republicans in Congress blocked him at every
turn. Let`s listen.


Republicans in Congress fought us tooth and nail to protect the status quo
and to keep these tax dollars flowing to the big banks instead of going to
middle class families. One of them said changing it would be an outrage.
The real outrage was letting banks keep these subsidies while students were
working three jobs just to try to get by. That was the outrage.



MATTHEWS: Governor, I only borrowed 2,800 bucks to go to college. It
was 3 percent. I could slow walk the repayments -- you know, the Peace
Corps, graduate school, finally get around to it. Today these kids are
getting killed with market rates and $40,000 or $100,000 loans. I can see
they didn`t -- they don`t like the Congress stepping on his fingers on that

RENDELL: Sure. And there`s a big difference, Chris, between a
populist message and class warfare. The Republicans want to categorize
everything as class warfare.

Why did we need middlemen for student loans that just jacked up the
price? The president basically eliminated those middlemen, and as a
result, kids are going to have to repay a lot less. And this proposal
today is another step in the right direction.

Look, the bottom line is he is finding a populist fighting persona,
and it`s good. If you look back at the 2008 primaries, when did Hillary
Clinton come on and come on like gangbusters, winning Ohio, Texas,
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky by huge margins? It was when she
found that populist voice. People want someone who`s going to fight for

MATTHEWS: You are still carrying that torch, aren`t you!


MATTHEWS: You are a loyalist. What a guy!

Anyway, President Obama again criticized Congress today and asked the
audience to join him. Let`s listen.


OBAMA: Tell them, Do your job. Tell them the president has ideas
that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans. There`s
no reason not to support them just to play politics.


OBAMA: It`s time to put country ahead of party. It`s time to put the
next generation ahead of the next election. It`s time for all of us in
Washington to do our job. It`s time for them to do their job!


MATTHEWS: Well, here`s some fun from yesterday. Jay Leno of NBC
asked the president about criticism from Republican lawmakers. Let`s
listen to Jay and the president.


JAY LENO, "TONIGHT" SHOW HOST: When Mitch McConnell says, Our goal is
to make this guy a one-term president--


LENO: I mean, why is -- does that anger you? How is that a goal?
That doesn`t (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: Well, look, I think the thing that folks across the country
are most fed up with, whether you`re a Democrat, Republican, independent,
is putting party ahead of country or putting the next election ahead of the
next generation.


MATTHEWS: Well, would I say that was a big applause line. They cut
off the tape there, but I know that Jay Leno audience. They`re middlebrow,
regular people, Steve. The president`s there with the high ground.

SCHMIDT: Look, one of the things that he`s doing, and they have a
deliberate strategy to do it, is trying to seize the high ground of
reasonableness in the debate, to go out and deliver a message to the
American people that, I`m willing to work with the other side. I`m on your
side. I`m trying to move the ball forward. I`m trying to alleviate the
pain of this catastrophic economy out there.

And to the extent that Republicans don`t have a plan, don`t have a
vision, aren`t able to articulate it, we make it easy for him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Is there any chance--

SCHMIDT: Now, the fact is--

MATTHEWS: We`re running out of time, Steve. I got to nail you with
this one.


MATTHEWS: Bill Kristol, smart guy, neo-conservative -- in other
words, somebody that Herman Cain never heard of -- came out the other day
and said, We need more candidates to get in this field. You`re the expert.
You ran the McCain campaign. Any chance that any one of the following will
jump in this race -- Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Mike Pence of Indiana, Paul
Ryan and Jeb Bush -- either chance -- any chance of anybody jumping in the
field? Are we stuck with probably Romney versus Cain at this point?

SCHMIDT: Yes, I think the speed-dating round of the Republican
primary is over. I think the field is set.


SCHMIDT: The hunt for the mystical candidate is over.


SCHMIDT: And I think we have some candidates in this field, Herman
Cain not being one of them, you know, but we do have candidates in this
field who I do think are capable of beating the president. It`s going to
be a tough fight.

MATTHEWS: Name one besides -- besides Mitt Romney.

SCHMIDT: Well, I--

MATTHEWS: Name one.

SCHMIDT: -- I think right now, you`d be hard pressed to name a

MATTHEWS: No, but you just said there were.

SCHMIDT: -- aside from Mitt Romney who--

MATTHEWS: I just want you to name--

SCHMIDT: -- clearly can win.

MATTHEWS: -- one of the "weres." You just said there were others on


SCHMIDT: Well, I was being a little -- I was being a little
optimistic, Chris, in a pessimistic time.


SCHMIDT: But right now, if you look at the polls, you know, it would
be Governor Romney.

MATTHEWS: I caught you wrong-footed, sir! You don`t have a candidate
besides Mitt!

Last word, Governor Rendell, real quick.

RENDELL: I`m for Michele Bachmann.

MATTHEWS: OK, you want some fun, like I do. You want the sideshow,
as we call it. Anyway, thanks, Governor Rendell. Thank you, Steve, for
this honesty, as always.

Coming up: It`s official, the rich are getting richer. Wait until you
see these numbers from the non-partisan CBO. They are astounding. It
seems like the top 1 percent is taking the money from the 99 rather
dramatically, and you`re going to see it in these numbers. So what do the
Republicans talk about when they groan about class warfare? Looks like one
of the classes is winning the war.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We`ve got more numbers now from the "New York Times" poll.
Here it is. Americans tend to support the Occupy Wall Street protests that
have sprung up across the country now. Nearly half of those polled, 46
percent, say the Wall Street protesters reflect the sentiment of most
Americans. Only one in four say the same about the Tea Party.

We`ll be right back.



The Republicans like to accuse President Obama of engaging in class
warfare. Paul Ryan just did it again today, telling a conservative
audience, of course, at the Heritage Foundation that the president has been
sowing social unrest and class resentment.

But new poll numbers show Americans aren`t buying it. They think the
policies of Republicans in Congress actually do favor the rich. They want
the government to tax the wealthiest Americans more, and they say that the
distribution of wealth in this country just isn`t fair on its face.

And nothing could better frame that absurdity of Paul Ryan`s argument
than the results of a new poll (SIC) by the nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office. Catch this. Look at these charts. The CBO tracked income
grow between 1979 and 2007, about 30 years. They found that the top 1
percent saw their incomes grow 275 percent. That`s in real terms. That`s
an unbelievable increase when you compare it to everybody else. Americans
in the top 81 percent to 99 percent grew their income 65 percent in that
same period. For the bottom 20 percent, incomes increased only 18 percent.

Here`s another way of looking at this rising inequality. Between 1979
and 2007, the richest 1 percent of us doubled their share of the national
pie from 8 percent to 17 percent, while the rest of America, the 99
percent, saw their share of the pie get smaller. The richest 1 percent
grew their share thanks to increasing incomes and more favorable tax
policies at the expense of the other 99 percent. Basically, the rich truly
are getting richer and everyone else is losing out.

For more on this, we`re joined by Chris Cillizza, MSNBC political
analyst and managing editor of and Democratic strategist
Jen Psaki, who is a White House spokesperson, in effect.

Now, what`s the president going to do with this fact that we now have
on the table, thanks to the non-partisan CBO, that everything that the Wall
Street Occupiers are saying, everything he`s been implying, is true?
Thanks to tax policy and everything else in economics, 1 percent is
basically grabbing most of the pie from the rest?

Republicans out there talking about their tax plan, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry
-- their tax plan is reverse Robin Hood economics. This is the kind of
policy that helps that exact 1 percent. And I suspect the president`s
going to be out there talking about that. Let`s hope. We hope that the
Republicans are going to run next year on this platform.

MATTHEWS: Are you surprised they stuck their foot in it again by
saying they`re for a flat tax, which everybody knows reduces the top rate
down and increases everybody else`s?

PSAKI: I was -- I was pleased, but -- but perhaps not surprised. I
mean, this is a group that has shown themselves to be completely
disconnected from what`s going on with the American people.

MATTHEWS: Chris, why do you think -- you`re an analyst, not an
opinion guy, but analyze this, as they say in the movies.


MATTHEWS: Analyze this. Why do they keep doing what they`re doing
when they know it offends the public and offends the middle class?

the dynamics -- and Jen knows this from having helped Barack Obama win a
Democratic primary in 2008 -- the dynamics -- the political dynamics of a
primary, Democratic or Republican, are very different than the political
dynamics of the general public or the general electorate.

A flat tax is a very popular idea in many fiscal conservative circles.
And I think the attitude is, Chris, and you can -- you probably do
disagree, but I think the attitude is you`ve got to win the Republican
nomination before you worry about running in the general election.

Now, President Obama, certainly, if Rick Perry is the nominee, will, I
think, make the argument that this flat tax is ultimately regressive,


CILLIZZA: -- the wealthiest among us. But I think Rick Perry`s point,
if he was in all candor and could speak, you know, honestly--

MATTHEWS: Intelligently.

CILLIZZA: -- would say, look, I have got to win the Republican
nomination before I worry what Barack Obama is going to say about me.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

Actually, Chris, I grew up with conservative -- relatively
conservative parents who voted as if they were rich, and they weren`t.
They were what we call cloth coat Republicans. They weren`t mink coat
Republicans. They did vote as if they were rich. And I think there are
people out like that the president has to address before he loses them.

Look at these numbers from the latest "New York Times"/CBS poll. More
Americans now say the Republicans in Congress favor the wealthy. They say
the same thing, by the way, by minuscule numbers about the president. They
give him like 28 percent say he favors the rich and 69 percent say the
Republicans favor the wealthy. That`s compared to 9 percent who say those
policies favor the middle class and 2 percent who say they favor the poor
and 15 percent say the policies treat every group equally.

Compare these numbers to what people say about Barack Obama. As I
said, just 28 percent say his policies favor the rich -- 23 percent say
they favor the middle class -- 17 percent say they favor the poor -- 21
percent say they treat all groups.

It`s interesting, Jen, that the public is so angry out there, they
even blame the president, who has been also accused of being a socialist
and lefty and everything else, of being a Robin Hood in reverse, at least
some of them do. They`re that angry.

PSAKI: Well, as you know, Chris, because you have covered many of
these, every election is a choice.

And the problem that the Republicans have is whomever is the nominee,
they will have the anchor of this tax plan hanging around their necks next
year. And I think that`s what we`re looking ahead to. The president is
governing, but we know there will be a comparison. Who does he represent
and who do they represent and what are they going to do for the economy?
And that`s what we will be focused on.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s somebody taking the fight at you. Here he is,
Paul Ryan, who everybody likes because he was tough on budget-cutting but
he`s also an Ayn Rand ideologue of the objectivist school. He`s pretty far
right when you get to -- here he is accusing President Obama of playing
class warfare.

And these are his words -- quote -- "preying on the emotions of fear,
envy, and resentment." Let`s watch Mr. Ryan.


opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past. He`s
going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up
straw men and scapegoats and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments as
he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.


MATTHEWS: Paul Ryan seems to be someone out of touch there with what
most Americans feel. In that "New York Times" poll just released, 65
percent of Americans believe taxes on households earning more than $1
million should be increased. Only 30 percent say they should not be.

So, overwhelmingly, they disagree with Ryan -- 66 percent say the
distribution of wealth and money in this country should be more even. Only
25 percent said it was fair.

You know, Chris, I look at these things not with complete surprise
because I think most people would rather tax the richest people. Most
people don`t want to be taxed themselves. That makes common sense. You
always say, as they used to say, don`t tax me, tax the guy behind the tree,
which is often a rich guy you have never met.

But it seems to me the most powerful number I have heard in the last
two days -- it was in "The Times" the other day -- 86 percent of the
American people, four out of five, believe profoundly that Wall Street has
too much power in Washington, and they believe it on both sides.


MATTHEWS: And you look at where these fund-raisers are held. You
look at who is raising the money and who is contributing it, wealthy Wall
Street people. They are smart to notice that, I think, the public.

CILLIZZA: I agree, Chris. You said on both sides. I think it`s
true. Look, it`s clear from the "New York Times" poll that more people
think Republicans are looking out for the wealthy, but Jen knows this.
Every Democrat knows this.

Democrats raise lots of money from Wall Street just like Republicans
do. Now, that said, I think that what this poll gets at, what the CBO
report gets at is this growing chasm between the haves and have-nots and
the feeling that it`s not just a chasm, because it`s always existed. It`s
getting wider and that in some way the system is rigged, that is, the haves
in some way are keeping you, a have-not, from moving into their category.

That`s that underlying anxiety, anger behind Occupy Wall Street.


CILLIZZA: I think that that move, that tone, that sentiment is
important to try and understand as it moves into the political context once
the calendar flips to 2012.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think there`s a sense there`s a lot more Bernie
Madoffs out there than the one that got caught and a lot of money has been
taken out of the market you invest in before you even got there.

Chris Cillizza, thank you. You`re always smart.

Welcome to the show, Jen Psaki.

Up next, how many positions can Mitt Romney possibly take? Well, this
is Promethean to come up with these numbers, because he doesn`t stop. He`s
Mr. Multiple Choice on most issues. He keeps coming up with new ones on

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up, what was yesterday`s highlight from the 2012 Republican
race? Well, probably the most recent ad from Cain campaign, which left us
all saying, what just happened? Here`s a little refresher.


MARK BLOCK, HERMAN CAIN CAMPAIGN: We need you to get involved,
because together, we can do this. We can take this country back.


MATTHEWS: Well, you didn`t expect the late-night scene to leave that
one alone, did you? Let`s take a look at one of the revamps for Cain`s
bizarre ad from "The Late Show With David Letterman."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rich Lowry (ph) here, chief economic adviser for
Herman Cain. Government must get off our backs, out of our pockets, and
out of our way.



MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, as if the original ad wasn`t strange enough on
its own, it also prompted "Saturday Night Live"`s Seth Meyers to tweet a
mock explanation for the ad.

"Overhead at Cain headquarters this morning, where did you put that
joke video? Joke video?"

That one provides quite the visual.

Next up, how many sides can Mitt Romney take on one issue? Well, if
it`s about a piece of anti-union legislation out in Ohio that`s up for
repeal, three. First, Romney said he supported the anti-union bill. In a
Facebook post back in June, Romney referred to the legislation, saying --
quote -- "I stand with John R. Kasich and Ohio`s leaders as they take on
this important fight to get control of government spending. Please visit for more information."

Well, then yesterday, perhaps after learning that polls are running
heavily against the bill, Romney had this to say.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not speaking about the
particular ballot issues. Those are up to the people of Ohio, but I
certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of
government. So, I`m not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives,
but I`m certainly supportive of the Republican Party`s efforts.


MATTHEWS: Notice he looked over to the other guy for help. Now he`s
steering clear, right? Right? Until today, that is.


ROMNEY: I fully support Governor Kasich`s I think it`s called
question two in Ohio. Fully support that.

What I was referring to is, I know there are other ballot questions
there in Ohio and I wasn`t taking a position on those. One of them, for
instance, relates to health care and mandates. With regards to question
two, which is the collective bargaining question, I am 110 percent behind
Governor Kasich and in support of that question.


MATTHEWS: Yes, he does look like one of those robots at the Hall of
the Presidents down at Disneyland. You never know what they`re going to

From no comment to 110 percent support in 24 hours. I can`t imagine
why he would want to sidestep questions relating to health care.

And now for the "Big Number." Who do you want over for dinner or more
accurately which of the GOP candidates would most Republican voters want to
have come to dinner? Here`s a hint, pizza. That`s right. Former
Godfather`s Pizza CEO Herman Cain is at the top of the list.

How many of those polled show Cain as their first pick for dinner
date? Twenty-nine percent. He just managed to beat out -- I can`t believe
this -- Newt Gingrich, who came in second. The president of the research
group that conducted the poll points out that while the results are a good
indication of Cain`s likability -- quote -- "It may just be an indication
that Americans like pizza."

What foolery. And, by the way, does anybody, really, really want Newt
Gingrich to dinner? Really, really? Twenty-indeed percent want dinner
with Herman Cain. That`s tonight`s "Big Number."

Up next, Rick Perry is plummeting in the polls. He`s almost down to
zero, and that explains why he`s trotting out the old birther lie, and now
some of the grownups in the party are saying enough already. Stop the
madness. It`s only helping getting the president reelected. Stop
questioning the guy`s papers.

You`re watching HARDBALL, own on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Rick Perry, who is still running for president, clarified his position
on the president`s citizenship in the wake of big-name Republicans, warning
him that the birther route is not a winning strategy.

Just yesterday, former Republican Governor Jeb Bush of Florida e-
mailed "The Washington Post" to say -- quote -- "Republican candidates
should categorically reject the notion that President Obama was not born in
the U.S. It is a complete distraction from the failed economic policies of
the president."

Well, the birther talk may win over right-wing conservatives, but is
it winning a path to the presidency?

Willie Brown served as mayor of San Francisco. And Michael Eric Dyson
is a professor at Georgetown University.

Mr. Brown, thank you for joining us, Mr. Mayor.

And, Professor, thank you.

This is something that we thought was dead as a rat somewhere down in
the basement, down in the eaves somewhere. Mr. Brown, it`s back again. It
just seems to be the weird little instinct.

Here`s Rick Perry, by the way, in his own defense in an interview with
"The St. Pete Times" where he tried to clean up, I guess, his birther
comments. Let`s see if we can follow his thought process, such as it is.
Let`s listen.


QUESTION: Jeb Bush the other day said candidates running for
president should categorically reject the notion that Barack Obama wasn`t
born in America. This came after you expressed doubts about that. What
would you say to him?

was expressing doubts. I was having some fun with Donald Trump.


QUESTION: -- American citizen?

PERRY: Oh, yes.

And, look, it`s fun to -- you know, lighten up a little bit.

QUESTION: So you have no doubt he`s an American citizen?

PERRY: I have no doubt about it.

But here`s the more interesting thing. Let`s lay out our income
taxes, let`s lay out our college transcripts. Mine has been on the front
page of the paper.


MATTHEWS: So let`s all call each other illegal immigrants and have a
yuk about it.

Mr. Brown, Mayor, what do you make of that defense, which was all just
in fun?

of Rick Perry.

Rick Perry is not ready for prime time, Chris. He literally is a
fellow Texan who should have remained in Texas in every way, because his
thought processes are pretty much restricted to that state, and under those
circumstances, he can`t make the presidency, period.

MATTHEWS: Why would they buy his act, which seems like buffoonery, on
issues of importance, like secession from the union and saying we don`t
need the Voting Rights Act in the South and we should have never had the
constitutional justification for the Civil Rights Act, and then he just
steps back from it, like I was just sort of speculating, free thinking?

How does he get away with that in the state of Texas?

BROWN: Well, nobody takes him seriously when he says those kinds of
things. That`s not really why they elected him. They just couldn`t buy
his opponents, period. And they didn`t hold him to the highest of
standards of which you should hold a person who wants to be the governor.

That`s just the way my state, my home state, happens to be at the

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Is that why you fled it?

BROWN: Well, yes and no.


MATTHEWS: As a young man.



BROWN: I left there for other reasons, too.

MATTHEWS: No, I can imagine. You grew up as the son of
sharecroppers. You had it tough. And look what you have done, I mean,
amazing. What a story.

Let me ask Professor Dyson about this thing.

You know, I think it has to do with not just race, which is always
sitting out there, but it has to do with some sense of always getting the
little yuk in there that Obama is not one of us. He`s not really American.
Somehow, even though he was born in Hawaii and somehow he was raised by a
white mother and in an interesting, sort of sophisticated circumstance,
went to good schools, we should be proud of his success, he`s somehow
exotic, you know?

about it. There`s a kind of a besmirching of his character. There`s a
suggestion he`s not quite us, he`s not one of us, he`s not inside the
parameters of our humanity.

To have a joke at the expense of Barack Obama`s citizenship, when this
was such a bitterly divisive kind of argument in America, shows that not
only is Rick Perry out of touch with reality, but he has gross
insensitivity to the extraordinary processes by which people are either
labeled as something that is negative or that they are celebrated.

And I think that the problem here is that Rick Perry here is tone deaf
and being tone deaf -- I agree with, you know, Mayor Brown that this is a
guy who doesn`t understand the fundamentals what have it takes to be a

Not only is he not ready for prime time. My God, he can`t even be the
backup quarterback.

MATTHEWS: You know what? I may beat you to the punch of this. I
think he has a dog whistle the size of a bugle. This guy knows what he`s

DYSON: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: Mayor Brown, I want to ask you about this. Here`s Haley
Barbour, who has got whatever his background down here, some Dixiecrat
background way down there. But, boy, is he smart?

He says not to run on this. He`s not running -- but he`s issuing a
warning to the Republican. When asked about the birther issue he said,
quote, "Look, if this election is about Barack Obama`s policies and results
of those policies, Barack Obama is going to lose. Any other issue that
gets injected in this campaign is not good for Republicans.

Republicans should want the election to be what American presidential
elections have always been, a referendum on the incumbent`s record. Barack
Obama cannot win a second term running on his record, zero chance. So
anybody who talks about anything else is off subject."

That is a political expert`s view.

BROWN: I had dinner with Haley Barbour, and I`ve got to tell you, I
couldn`t get out of him why he is not a candidate in the Republican
primary. I think he would be as viable if not more viable than any of the
other candidates that are already out there, and I think he has greater
staying power than any of them because he`s a very intelligent, very well-
informed person in America.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

BROWN: And believe me, I think the Republicans ought to be looking
around for a different horse and Haley could be it.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the Tea Party rally last night where
Herman Cain spoke. A man named Apostle Claver called the Democratic Party
racist. Cain was not in the audience but he was in the back room

Here`s a portion of the Claver`s remarks.


APOSTLE CLAVER, RAGING ELEPHANTS: If anybody is a racist, it`s the
Democratic Party that`s the racist -- the party of the Ku Klux Klan, the
party of Jim Crowe, the party of Bull Connor, the party of segregation, the
party of the KKK. They are the racists, not us. We`re their friends.
We`re the emancipators.


MATTHEWS: I don`t think that guy caught on to the Southern Strategy
of 1968, Mr. Mayor.


MATTHEWS: He`s back there before the Southern Strategy, a little out
of date in his diatribe, I think. Your thoughts?

BROWN: I think he`s absolutely out of date. He cannot for the life
of me understand why he would say in the last 30 years, that, in fact, the
Democratic Party has reflected any of the kind of characteristic that he
talked about as a party. They have not. The Democratic Party at one time
controlled the South.

Once Ronald Reagan started his Southern Strategy, the Democratic Party
lost control of the South and that`s because the Democratic Party was
pursuing civil rights, civil liberties, equality and all the things that
are reflected to our U.S. Constitution. The South couldn`t handle that,
and particularly those who call themselves Democrats, they went fleeing to
the Republican Party, and that`s where they are.

I don`t maintain, however, that that turned the Republican Party into
a racist party because I don`t think it is a racist party. After all, it
was Nixon who really implemented the whole business of some equality on the
economic side with George Shultz and others in the Philadelphia Plan.


BROWN: And Arthur Fletcher. And so, clearly, it is not the case to
say Republicans are the racists. But believe me, those who left the
Democratic Party who were racist have ended up in the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: You have just shown us the history that is so fascinating.
We ought to have a conversation about what Richard Nixon did. Even though
he did the Southern Strategy, he affirmative action in the Philadelphia

I think he was out to screw the unions myself, by the way -- the
reason he did that because all these Irish and Italian guys didn`t want the
blacks work, they wanted their nephews to get the jobs. He said, I`ll
divide these guys up.

Anyway, just my theory of Nixon.

Anyway, thank you, Willie Brown. Thank you, sir.

And I thank you, Michael Eric Dyson.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

Up next, it turns out that Marco Rubio`s parents not only came to the
United States before Castro took office -- all those official papers
notwithstanding -- but they applied to live here permanently. They weren`t
checking this place out and heading back to Cuba. They are not exile.
They are immigrants like so many other people.

This story is getting -- well, it`s getting more and more clear that
this guy is not telling the story.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: Nate Silver over the "New York Times" 538 blog is trying to
figure out whether presidential candidates benefit from winning the
endorsements of newspapers. The answer: probably not.

Take a look at last six presidential elections. In 2008, Barack Obama
took 64 percent of newspaper endorsements. In 2004, John Kerry got 51

Back in 2000, George W. Bush won 61 percent of the newspaper
endorsements. In `96, Bob Dole got the endorsement of 60 percent of the
papers. Clinton took the majority in `92. Herbert Walker Bush was the
overwhelming favorite of papers back in `88.

Between `72 and `88, no Democrat running for election got more than 23
percent endorsements from newspapers. You figure it all out.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We are back.

New details about Senator Marco Rubio`s family history have emerged
and they don`t help the senator. Last week, "The Washington Post" reported
that Rubio`s parents did not flee Castro`s Cuba, as he said, but left years
later. And now, we learn that his parents apparently didn`t intend to
return to Cuba, as he claimed. They planned to stay in the U.S.

Peter Wallsten is a reporter with "The Washington Post" and Alex Burns
is a reporter with "Politico."

Gentlemen, thank you.

The "St. Pete Times" reported this today: On May 18th, 1956, Mario and
Oriales Rubio walked into the American consulate in Havana and applied for
immigrant visas. The form asked how long they intended to stay in the
United States. They said permanently. Mr. Rubio answered that question

It seems to me now, Peter, that the question now is why is everything
we`ve been getting over the years from Rubio clearly suggesting he`s an
anti-communist victim that should appeal across the country to other anti-
communists on the right, and it turns out, nothing wrong with it. And he`s
an immigrant like so many other people from the Caribbean, just an
immigrant without any political reality to the story.

PETER WALLSTEN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, that`s the question. Is
it an issue of sloppiness or something more? I mean, his office pushes
back and says, you know, that the story is basically consistent. But if
that`s the case, then wasn`t everything out there from the get-go?

MATTHEWS: What do they mean by consistent? They kept saying that he
came over in `59. Occasionally, he would say `58, suggesting around the
time of the revolution, and now, it turns out it was two years before the
revolution. He`s not been consistent.

WALLSTEN: No, he`s not. He`s clearly not. And there are plenty of
examples where he did talk about his parents coming in 1959, when, in fact,
it was in 1956.

Where they argue that he has been consistent is the claim that he is,
quote, "son of exiles." They believe that he still is entitled to have
that very cherished title, that description, because the whole community,
because they argue, and he still says, despite the good "St. Pete Times"
today, they still say that the parents they tried --

MATTHEWS: They would say that. They would say that. It doesn`t
matter if they`re wrong.


MATTHEWS: Let me go over to Alex Burns on this question. Let`s take
a look now at what`s going on here. He initially criticized for portraying
that his parents fled after Castro took control in Cuba.

In fact, as of Friday of last week, his Senate biography read as
follows, this is to me the damning information. Not just that he says it
verbally, but hey put it out in an official document in the Senate, in his
office. Quote, "In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who
came to America following Fidel Castro`s takeover."

That is not true, Alex. They put out something that was not true,
with absolute clarity. It wasn`t a difference of the years `59 versus `56.

But now, they`re putting out the biography, as of now, when they got
caught, they`ve been caught with the revelations about the timing of their
move to the United States. It now reads, quote, "Marco was born in Miami
in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."

So, he dropped the claim only after he got caught. This
clarification, this revision of his life story, of his biography is only
coming to light because "The Washington Post" nailed him.

ALEX BURNS, POLITICO: Well, Chris, you know, the cliche in politics
is that


BURNS: -- the cliche if you`re explaining, you`re losing. And we`re
now in day 5 or 6 of Marco Rubio explaining. You know, the most generous
interpretation is he is actually learning some of the specifics along with
the rest of us.

MATTHEWS: Whoa, that`s where I don`t agree. That`s too generous.

BURNS: Well --

MATTHEWS: How could he have grown up in a family of, quote, "exiles"
and not have his parents ever explain to him what it was like when Castro
took over? Just answer that question.

How can they ever say to their kid we`re exiles, and never once say,
in the answer to the kids question, or just generally as parents do over
the dinner table, you know, you should have seen Castro when he came in, we
thought he was going to be good, he turned out to be a commie. He started
killing people, executed 600 people the first couple weeks.

Why did that conversation never occur? I think it did, but it didn`t
occur that way. It was we came over in `56.

How can you explain in any other theory that he`s been B.S.-ing the
country on this?

BURNS: Well, I wouldn`t want to speculate about dinner table
conversation in the Rubio household --

MATTHEWS: No, but the lack of them. Would you speculate they never
had one? Because that`s what you`re doing if you`re generous.

BURNS: No. I think that it`s tough to believe that Senator Rubio
never had a conversation with his parents about the circumstances under
which they came over.


BURNS: His contention, and I`m not saying, Chris, that I would
endorse this, but his contention is that, if you leave Cuba for economic
reasons, maybe leave open the door to going back at some point in the
future, and then your country collapses in a communist revolution, that
you`re still entitled to claim that label.

MATTHEWS: You know what? That`s not journalism, though. That is not
fact. That is pure, pure, nonsensical elliptical thinking.

I want to get back to Peter. I just think you`re giving him too much
generous thinking here.

Peter, the argument now, is he now stuck in this? As a journalist, is
this story still hot?

WALLSTEN: The story is still hot, and has big political
ramifications, too, Chris, because you actually touched on this before,
that actually, his parents have a very kind of conventional immigrant


WALLSTEN: Here is a guy who is now viewed, as many Republicans that
I`ve been talking to in the last couple of days, they had seen him as maybe
the best hope of the party to try to reconnect with Hispanic voters after
what is a pretty damaging primary contest right now among the Republicans,
you got Mitt Romney going after Perry on immigration.

MATTHEWS: He can`t sell out West, in Arizona, and places like this.
Oh, I`m an anti-communist. Look at my parents. Look at what we did. We
fought the commies. You can`t sell it anymore.

Thank you, Peter. Thank you, Alex, for joining us.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with where we may be headed if the
rich keep getting richer. One percent is grabbing the 99 percent share.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this. I was in East Berlin
the week the wall came down. And I interviewed a number of East German
working folk about the reason for their despair with the communist system.
It was telling.

What they complained about is the way the system betrayed them, the
people who believed in the socialist system, who considered themselves good
communists, and they did their job as best they could. They expected to be
treated with economic respect, with fairness.

They were betrayed, of course. The people who did well in East Berlin
were the hustlers, the people who got to deal with foreigners, the taxis
drivers, the people who get tips. They were getting paid in West German
currency, which was worth a lot.

Well, the system humiliated the East Germans, adding economic insult
to economic injury day in and day out. The people who worked hard and play
by the rules, as we said, we`re getting screwed. While the people who live
off foreign currency were the only ones getting a break. All the time, the
good communists were watching the West Germans living like West Germans.

What killed communism was how it betrayed the good people who did
their jobs -- the East German equivalent of our middle class. What happens
in this country when the middle class see the system here working against
it? What happens when people who work see the wealth going to the very
top, to those who seem to make money off having money?

Well, today we learned from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office that the top 1 percent has doubled its share of the take. Something
tells me that we`re not going to see the people roar up and say, enough is
enough, like the East Germans 22 years ago did, but they`re definitely
beginning to rumble, the 99 percent. The worker bees who believe in free
markets are beginning to wonder if that level playing field just got a
little too slanted.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with the great Al Sharpton starts right now.


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