Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Kristen Welker, Hampton Pearson, Michael Duffy, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, David Nakamura
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Cliffhanger.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Who`s going to win in November? We`ve got a brand-new NBC News/"Wall
Street Journal" poll just out tonight, the first since Mitt Romney
effectively clinched the Republican nomination.
Are voters buying President Obama`s fairness argument? Who do they
think would do a better job on the economy? And how much do voters
actually like the two candidates? Here`s one hint from our pollsters about
November -- this election is looking a lot like the 2000 and 2004
So how does either candidate break the logjam? Romney says President
Obama`s in over his head. We`ve heard him say that a number of times. Mr.
Obama says Romney is out of touch. Well, the winner of that debate, which
is very personal, could be the winner in November.
Also, the latest on the Secret Service scandal tonight, including hot
new details about just what happened.
Plus, the world`s most exclusive fraternity. Right now, it has only
five members, the living presidents of the United States. So what do you
think? Do these guys really root for each other? Apparently so.
And if you`re running for senator from Massachusetts, there`s one
organization -- hint, hint -- you don`t want to have on your side, the New
York Yankees, believe it or not. And unfortunately for him, Scott Brown
made the error of taking a check from the owner.
We begin with the first NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll of the
general election season. Chuck Todd`s NBC`s political director and chief
White House correspondent. Howard Fineman is editorial director for the
Huffington Post Media Group and an MSNBC political analyst.
Gentlemen, let`s look at the numbers. Let`s take a look at how Mitt
Romney and Barack Obama match up in terms of favorability in that new poll
coming out of NBC and "The Wall Street Journal." Forty-eight percent have
somewhat or very positive feelings toward the president. That`s 48, the
president. Mitt Romney fared worse with just 33.
However, slightly more people have somewhat or very negative feelings
toward Obama. He edged out Romney 39 to 36 on that one.
What do you make of these numbers?
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s
a little context here. These are actually improved numbers for Romney.
Now, he`s still starting in this net negative territory...
TODD: No. And part of it is almost all improvement among Republican
voting groups. You know, you`re seeing a coalescing and all of this stuff.
But he`s still got a ways to go. When you look at it -- we know all
of the ballot match-ups -- Obama`s favorable rating pretty much is close to
where he is in all of these ballot match-ups, 48 percent. He`s sitting
somewhere between 47 and 50 percent in a lot of these polls.
Romney is having to basically overperform his personal favorable
ratings. So he`s still more -- what we`re learning here -- he`s still a
sort of -- the Republican vessel, if you will.
MATTHEWS: He`s the brand name.
TODD: He`s not yet...
MATTHEWS: Brand X.
TODD: ... Mitt Romney.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
But it`s an opportunity for him, for Romney, if he can take it because he
has a lot of upside room to grow there, if he can figure out how to do it.
MATTHEWS: Look at him at a picnic with his tie opened like that!
MATTHEWS: ... Mr. Likable?
TODD: His negatives almost equal the president`s negatives. You
know, that`s what...
FINEMAN: Yes, but...
FINEMAN: But there`s some numbers missing there that he fill in, if
he possibly can. Now, he`s been through primary, and the way he ran the
race in the primary accentuated his negatives because he did nothing but
attack everybody else.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that focus group -- we`ll get to it
later, but this focus group out, just out in "The Washington Post" today,
which is fascinating. It shows that among Republicans who will probably
vote for them because they`re Republicans, they don`t really like the guy.
TODD: Well, they don`t know him.
MATTHEWS: No, they don`t really like him...
MATTHEWS: ... stiff, they think he`s...
MATTHEWS: ... cunning.
TODD: The one thing they got out of it, the one positive, when you --
this focus group -- and Mark Murray, our senior political editor, he was at
that one, too. The one -- the one message that did get through to these
folks -- Oh, he`s a businessman. Oh, he`s a businessman. So he has that
aspect. But he filled in nothing else.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) let me...
TODD: He filled in nothing.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about something inside the poll here which I
found fascinating. Within those who like President Obama, there`s a very
strong intensity among some of the people there. Like, 30 percent of the
country really is gung-ho for the guy. They can`t wait to vote for him
again. I mean, some of them may be minorities, some of them may be
liberals, obviously, progressives, but the gung-ho nature -- nothing like
that for Romney. Only 10 percent of the people are really gung-ho. They
can`t wait to get to that voting booth to vote for Mitt Romney.
FINEMAN: Well, I don`t think...
MATTHEWS: Does that effect who shows up?
FINEMAN: Yes, and I don`t think that changes. And I think what that
means is Mitt Romney`s entire argument is based on the idea that President
Obama has failed, and that he, Mitt Romney, is for the most part, the
convenient instrument to retire Barack Obama. And he`s a businessman. And
that`s basically it.
MATTHEWS: So he`s not selling Mitt Romney, he`s selling somebody...
FINEMAN: He`s really not...
FINEMAN: ... but I think -- I actually -- but I think he has to
because he`s got to improve the likability number. He`s got to -- he`s got
to improve his positive number in some way. I don`t think he can win it
just based on antipathy to...
MATTHEWS: Do you agree with that? He can`t win without...
MATTHEWS: Can you win by just being the relief pitcher?
TODD: Well, let`s look at the last -- no, because let`s look at the
last two incumbent presidents to lose -- the last three sitting presidents
to lose, to H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. All had one thing in
common. Their own political bases were -- were -- were not fired up about
them. They were unhappy with him, right? Bush had the Buchanan challenge.
Carter had the Kennedy challenge. Ford had the Reagan challenge.
I think that Obama`s secret weapon here is simply the fact that the
base is excited about him still, is still fired up about him. And you
can`t look back in history and see that a sitting president...
TODD: ... with a fired-up political base getting thrown out. It
hasn`t happened in the modern era.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a couple...
FINEMAN: Well, which is all the more -- all the more reason why Mitt
Romney has to have a better rationale than just getting rid of the
MATTHEWS: Let`s get to these numbers. The NBC poll also has --
people were asked how they would respond to candidates who made certain
statements about the economy. Take a look -- 76 percent said it would make
them more likely to vote for a candidate who said something along the lines
of what President Obama`s been saying, that he`s willing to fight for
balance and fairness and to strengthen the middle class.
And another Obama message also scores well, America`s better off when
everyone gets a fair share and plays by the rules. So those are Obama`s
arguments -- fairness, basically.
Messages that Romney has said also do well. And these do well, though
not as well. Sixty-four percent of the voters out there like a message
about wanting to restore the values of economic freedom, opportunity, small
government, Republican conservative values, and talk about free enterprise
over government programs.
That also scores well. But not as well, as I said. And also, free
enterprise arguments generally don`t do quite as well.
And here`s something that`s interesting. What isn`t selling so well
is this argument about the rich, the very rich.
TODD: Economic inequality. Fairness sells well, when the president
was talking about that. We used exact -- just so you know, we used exact
quotes from the president and Mitt Romney during their speeches to the
Associated Press editors luncheon. Remember those days (ph)? They really
did frame their arguments, and that`s where we grabbed the phrases from.
Those fairness arguments, that tests well. But when you turn it into
where it sounds like class warfare, when -- at one point the president
FINEMAN: Get the pitchforks out.
TODD: ... the "ultra-rich" (INAUDIBLE) that hurts the economy...
MATTHEWS: How about this. "I wasn`t born with a silver spoon my
mouth." That doesn`t work.
TODD: I can tell you I`ve talked to some Democrats today who said,
You know, wish he wouldn`t go there, that that -- there is a line here...
MATTHEWS: By the way, Franklin Roosevelt was born with a big silver
spoon in his mouth.
TODD: Jack Kennedy.
MATTHEWS: As was Jack Kennedy, yes. We`ve had those people on the
Let me ask you about something which is not in the polling, but I want
you, as experts -- Barack Obama is the first African-American president,
OK? Is there going to be a reluctance on the part of the voters and the
political community that talks politics, as we get into November, about
dumping the first African-American president? Is that going to be
something that just ratchets people -- Wait a minute here. This guy`s
going to knock out the first guy who ever got aboard? Howard?
FINEMAN: Well, the question is whether voters are going to think that
FINEMAN: My guess is it`s a wash. My guess is some voters may be
reluctant for that reason. On the other hand, there are going to be some
voters who are going to be grading him on a tougher -- on a tougher scale
MATTHEWS: Because he is black.
TODD: You know, I had a Republican candidate -- or a non-Republican
(ph) candidate -- a Republican who thought about running for president and
decided not to. One of the reasons was, I`m not going to be that guy.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the guy that removes -- let`s take a look at
some -- because all of this history`s been made here. Let`s take a look at
some of the latest polls in the presidential race, new ones here.
President Obama leads in all (ph) but (ph) two Quinnipiac polls.
Obama has up -- is up 4 there, though CBS/"New York Times" has the two of
them tied. That`s an interesting poll, the "New York Times," just came
out. The average of the latest polls has Obama up by 2.5 points.
Now, what do we make of these polls? You put them all together, they
tell us something, or do they take away from the truth of each of them? Do
they all give us a general message, if you add them up?
TODD: Well, you just wait for the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" polls,
what I always say.
TODD: You know, no, I think they all -- we`re seeing where it is,
which is the president has a slight advantage. Romney has some work to do.
It`s looking like we`re headed to 2004 because all of the numbers say that.
The Gallup number is just a mess because they just totally under --
they have not -- they have the wrong electorate out there because the other
thing I would warn people on -- we`re doing registered voters right now.
You don`t know what a likely voter sample looks like six months out and you
don`t do it. A lot of pollsters won`t...
MATTHEWS: You`ve done (INAUDIBLE) here. You can do all adults...
TODD: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: ... which is useless. You can do registered voters, which
is helpful. But the best poll is likely voters.
TODD: But not now.
MATTHEWS: Why don`t we...
TODD: But not now because...
TODD: ... likely voters -- you don`t get a sense -- you have people
that are going to vote who won`t necessarily say they`re ready to vote now.
They`re not paying attention.
MATTHEWS: When do you -- when can we get a look at likely voters?
TODD: Convention. Labor Day. That`s when we start.
FINEMAN: Traditionally -- traditionally, you switch over to likely
voters after Labor Day because you have a better sense of who, in fact, is
FINEMAN: ... and who`s listening.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to something that`s important. Some people
believe that you get a good look at the economy between now and June, and
that`s when you really decide the election, on economic bread and butter
issues. Howard, talk about that.
MATTHEWS: Are we getting close to...
FINEMAN: That`s why I think those earlier numbers in this poll about
whether the fairness message is registering or the freedom message is
registering for Romney are interesting but somewhat beside the point.
This is all about who is going to make the economy better?
MATTHEWS: I agree completely.
FINEMAN: Who`s going to make it better? And that`s going to be a
referendum in part on how well the president has done and also on how
credible Mitt Romney is as a person who would be a good economic steward.
Those are the key numbers, and a lot of people decide -- it`s true, as
Chuck and I -- as we all know, that people think faster and react faster.
But there`s a lot of evidence to show that this spring, the second
MATTHEWS: OK, here`s some numbers on that...
FINEMAN: ... second quarter...
MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look...
FINEMAN: ... is the key.
MATTHEWS: ... at these numbers, guys, take a look at the numbers on
the economy. Asked whether the economy will improve in the next 12 months,
38 percent said it would. That`s just 2 out of 5. One out of 5 said it
would get worse and 40 percent, another 2 out of 5, said same as it`s been.
Asked whether reelecting President Obama would help or hurt the
economy -- this is useless, this stuff -- 31 percent said it would help, 30
percent said it would hurt.
And look at what they said about Romney getting electing. Again, 32
percent said it would help. Only 24 percent, however, said it would hurt.
About the same percentage said neither candidate would...
FINEMAN: Well, and there are also...
MATTHEWS: ... make much difference.
FINEMAN: There are also...
MATTHEWS: I`m not getting much from that.
FINEMAN: There are also numbers in other polls that -- if you can
pick through to look at that specifically. I think that number is
problematic for the president, but it certainly doesn`t show it`s a slam
TODD: Well, and -- and I...
FINEMAN: ... for Mitt Romney, either, even though he`s a businessman,
because he got so off on other topics during the primary season.
MATTHEWS: OK, but let`s talk about the president...
MATTHEWS: Why is Obama talking about fairness, talking about women,
talking about all -- he keeps changing the subject.
MATTHEWS: Does he not want to run on the state of the economy?
TODD: He wants to run on the state of the Republican Party.
FINEMAN: He`s trying to pick every negative of the Republican Party
out there. And look, you know, our poll -- the brand of the Republican
Party is a mess.
TODD: It`s been a mess for...
MATTHEWS: Why? Since Bush, since W.?
TODD: ... for a year -- no. It had actually started -- it repaired
itself for a short period of time after -- through the 2010 elections, and
then it precipitously went downhill. I think the idea that it`s
MATTHEWS: The people hate the Tea Party...
FINEMAN: The Tea Party brought them up and the Tea Party dragged them
MATTHEWS: Has it had its day?
TODD: Interesting. I think it`s -- well, we`ll see. I -- you know,
there`s a -- Mark Murray makes this argument to me all the time. Can we
say the Tea Party is dead if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee?
Because you can`t get more anti-Tea Party than Mitt Romney.
FINEMAN: No, I think the Tea Party has influenced the Republican
Party. They`ve -- they`re sort of a spent -- well, they`re like a booster
rocket. They`re gone into the ocean.
MATTHEWS: I would say that Mitt Romney is high tea.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd, and thank you, Howard
And two hours from now, at 7:00 o`clock Eastern, we`ll give you all
the numbers, a lot more numbers on the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll,
including who`s leading right now in the match-ups. Still going to do that
Coming up: Mitt Romney says President Obama`s in over his head.
President Obama says Romney`s out of touch. We`ll have our "Strategists"
decide which argument`s likely to win.
This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mitt Romney`s out there cozying up to Christian
conservatives. He`s set to give the commencement address at Liberty
University next month. Wow. Liberty was founded by the late Reverend
Jerry Falwell and is now run by his son, who compared Romney`s commencement
address with Ronald Reagan`s visit to the school when he ran for president
Well, Romney has a -- has a tough sell for evangelical Christians.
During the primary campaign, he lost every state where evangelicals made up
more than half the voters.
We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be great. Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With Mitt Romney effectively clinching the Republican nomination, we`re now
seeing a preview right now of what this summer and fall`s political
debate`s going to hinge on.
For Mitt Romney, it`s not about disputing the president`s likability
but proving he`s not up to the job -- the president, according to Romney.
He said last night, quote, "The president`s a nice guy, but we just can`t
afford him for four more years." Isn`t that sweet?
And for Barack Obama, it`s painting Mitt Romney as being born with a
silver spoon in his mouth, out of touch due to his wealth and success and
his lack of hardship.
Well, our HARDBALL "Strategists" are here -- there they go -- are here
to review the arguments, Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris.
So let`s take that question right now. Likability is a nice thing.
Let`s -- oh, by the way, here`s Romney right now, North Carolina, just
yesterday, making the case against reelecting the president. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even if you
like Barack Obama, we can`t afford Barack Obama! It`s time to get someone
that`ll get this economy going and put the American people back to work!
We`re a -- we`re a trusting people. We`re a hopeful people. But
we`re not dumb.
ROMNEY: And -- and we`re not going to fall for the same lines from
the same person just because it`s in a different place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I somehow think he`s being well scripted right now.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He is being well scripted
because what he`s trying to do is separate the fact that people like the
president, they`d like the president to succeed, and they`re making a
decision about a president they like and a guy they don`t like very much.
MATTHEWS: Can they take away Obama`s advantage on likability...
MATTHEWS: ... by conceding it?
MCMAHON: Well, they can -- they can -- they can mute it a little bit.
The problem that they have is the converse of the argument is, You may not
like me very much, but if you care about the economy, you need to elect a
business guy from Wall Street. I don`t quite get it.
MATTHEWS: Can you concede the likability issue, like he`s doing?
He`s (INAUDIBLE) OK, he`s more likable, but let`s talk about something
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, you can -- you can mitigate
it because the fact is, as long as people feel like they themselves, yes,
the economy may be improving, but if I`m not feeling it myself, whether you
like the president on a personal level or not, or think he`s a good guy, a
good husband or not, if you don`t think he`s up to the task of turning the
economy around, then it doesn`t matter.
And the fact that in the same polls that showed this race basically
tied, that Romney`s fave-unfave numbers are so bad, and yet -- so people
are saying, You know what? I don`t like...
MATTHEWS: How does he keep...
TODD: ... Romney, but I`m voting for him.
MATTHEWS: ... the crazies in your party quiet who hate Obama, the
mongooses out there that just snipe at him constantly? And they`ll be at
every one of the rallies this summer saying racism -- sometimes (INAUDIBLE)
all these terrible things about the president. And he`s saying, Oh, he`s a
Is that going to be believable when he says that?
MCMAHON: It`ll be just -- they`ll start to boo him.
TODD: ... every time Lawrence O`Donnell comes on this network and
bashes Mormonism. I mean, you know, how`s the left contain that?
MCMAHON: Well, the better argument for Mitt Romney, frankly, if
you`re going to do the, "It may be this, but it`s not that," would be the
economy may be improving, but is it improving for you?
Todd just got to a better argument because Todd`s actually a better
strategist than the Romney campaign...
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...
TODD: ... gets me in trouble!
MATTHEWS: ... the state of Ohio. Yesterday, President Obama was out
there, and it`s going to decide again, this state -- it`s like Ohio and
Florida all the time -- takes this shot at Romney, perhaps telegraphing his
line of attack for the whole campaign. Big question about whether this
worked or not. Let`s watch him, the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody gave me an
education. I wasn`t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle
wasn`t. But somebody gave us a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK, these are scholarship kids, both he and his wife, and
her brother was a scholarship kid at Princeton. OK, is that something to
brag about or is that something to be careful about when the other guy got
tuition paid by his parents to prep school and everything else?
TODD: It -- I mean, it reeks of the kind of class warfare that...
MCMAHON: Oh, come on!
TODD: ... in your previous segment, that -- you know, that Chuck Todd
and Howard and others were warning against. Anne Richards tried this in
MATTHEWS: Well, isn`t it fair to say...
TODD: ... against former president Bush.
MATTHEWS: ... that some of these guys with old money are born on
third and act like they hit a triple, or what Anne Richards said? Isn`t
that true? Don`t they act like they have entitlement, when Ann Romney and
them start talking about, It`s our turn? What the hell does that mean,
"It`s our turn"?
TODD: Probably not the language I would have used.
MATTHEWS: Because that means we`re entitled.
MCMAHON: Well, it could mean something else. But -- but...
MATTHEWS: By the way, let`s take a look at that -- let`s get that
other sound of that. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Start packing!
ROMNEY: That`s what I`d like to -- like to say. Obviously, we have a
very different view. The -- the president, I`m -- I`m sure wants another
four years. But the first years didn`t go so well.
ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I got to know Michelle. She`s a
lovely person. I have never met Barack Obama, but I believe it`s Mitt`s
I believe that the country needs the kind of leadership that he is
going to be able to offer. And I believe he is the person that can turn
around this economy. So I think it`s our turn now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What is this, "Goonies," it`s our time? Remember
"Goonies," the kids movie? It`s our time? It sounds like you`re a rich
person waiting for the trust money to come through. That`s what it sounds
MCMAHON: It`s the argument from the Republican primary. Really, that
is what happens in Republican presidential primaries.
Whoever`s turn it is gets to go next. But unfortunately for the
Romneys, that`s not the way America works and that`s not the way democracy
works. And can I just make one point about the president? Everyone
assumed he`s talking about Mitt Romney. He could have been talking about
HARRIS: Oh, please.
MCMAHON: Hold on a second. He didn`t mention Mitt Romney. He didn`t
mention Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: Can I have a response from you on that?
HARRIS: I just gave it.
MCMAHON: He didn`t mention Mitt Romney. It`s a rhetorical trick to
talk about the haves and the have-nots in society. It may be Mitt Romney.
It could be just about anybody. He`s talking about opportunity.
MATTHEWS: Do we know anybody who is more exquisite in use of language
than this president? He knows exactly what he meant. He meant the other
MATTHEWS: ... the silver spoon in his mouth.
MCMAHON: He knew exactly what you would think, Chris.
HARRIS: Any potential, hypothetical, wealthy, Mormon, former governor
MCMAHON: Just because the shoe fits doesn`t mean you have to wear it,
but the shoe does fit.
MATTHEWS: Here`s Romney responding to that silver spoon -- because he
says something here that really bugs me. Here we`re going to go back and
forth and this. Let`s watch Romney here on "FOX and Friends."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. ROMNEY: I`m surely not going to apologize for my dad and his
success in life. He was born poor. He worked his way to become very
successful despite the fact that he didn`t have a college degree.
I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans. He`s always
looking for a scapegoat, particularly those that have been successful like
my dad. And I`m not going to rise to that. This is a time for us to solve
problems. This is not a time for us to be attacking people. We should be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. Here`s a problem I have. This isn`t just political
diddly stuff we`re talking about.
Here`s a serious assault. "I know the president likes to attack
What does that mean? It`s the strangest comment. Nobody talks...
MCMAHON: At least they`re giving him credit for being born in America
MATTHEWS: Is that unpatriotic, to attack fellow Americans?
HARRIS: What it means is that the president`s rhetoric where he says
to voters, the reason you`re not doing better is because these people over
here are doing too well, it`s this kind of mentality...
MATTHEWS: This president has been villainized by your party and by
the right as not really an American, as some sort of guy who snuck in the
country, as really African.
MATTHEWS: He`s a fellow American. Republicans have been attacking
this guy personally and viciously for years now.
HARRIS: He is an American. Of course he is an American.
MATTHEWS: And then they say, well, he attacks fellow Americans. What
did your crowd do?
HARRIS: Look, the whole campaign...
MCMAHON: I`m glad you have conceded he is an American.
MCMAHON: All the birthers out there. He`s an American.
MATTHEWS: What does it mean to say, "I know the president likes to
attack," not that he`s pugnacious like I am or anybody is in this business,
pugnacious, but he likes to attack fellow Americans. What does that mean?
What`s trying to do -- it`s very obvious what he`s trying to do. This
is going to be a campaign that divides America from Mitt Romney. He`s
trying to make -- take a polarized America and make it a polarized race and
make it very close.
MATTHEWS: And he`s an American.
MCMAHON: Because then he figures that he`s got a coin toss chance of
But the problem is he`s also got a record that he will have to defend.
And the Obama campaign, as exquisite as they are with the language, is even
more exquisite with a razor blade cutting the throat of their opponent.
MATTHEWS: How did the Dallas Cowboys get to be America`s team? He
does the same thing. I`m America`s candidate for president.
HARRIS: This is a White House whose policies are inherent in the
policies as dividing America. Those people are doing too well.
MCMAHON: Everybody should have the same opportunity isn`t a divisive
message. It`s the message of America, Todd.
MATTHEWS: What`s the strongest argument, he`s in over his head, your
guys` charge, or that he`s out of touch with people`s real needs? What`s
the better one?
MCMAHON: Against the president? Neither one.
The better argument is the economy hasn`t recovered as quickly as we
hoped or he said, and therefore, we need to try something new. That`s not
a winning argument, but it`s the best argument they have.
HARRIS: Yes. Well, actually, it is a winning argument.
MCMAHON: No, it`s not.
HARRIS: He didn`t do what he said he was going to do.
MATTHEWS: Did you just hit him?
MCMAHON: I did. I do it all the time.
MATTHEWS: That`s a Romney...
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
MATTHEWS: We don`t do that here. No physical touching.
HARRIS: That the country is heading in the wrong direction.
HARRIS: And do you want four more years of exactly what we just had,
but now on steroids, or do we need to change direction?
MATTHEWS: On steroids?
HARRIS: Yes, because we`re going to go even faster.
MATTHEWS: Oh, throw in that he`s a drug user, too.
OK. Thank you, Todd Harris.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes. That`s right, a foreign-born drug user. That`s
what I said.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, call it cookie-gate, Mitt Romney`s latest
foot in mouth or actually cookie in mouth moment manages to offend a small-
town Pennsylvania business. That`s ahead in the "Sideshow." They`re
really taking this personal up there about the cookie the other day.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."
First up, if there`s one thing that strikes a chord with Massachusetts
voters, we all know it`s the Red Sox. Incumbent Senator Scott Brown has
been going all out courting Red Sox nation recently with radio and Web ads
featuring the senator greeting fans. There he is at Fenway.
But has Brown crossed over to the dark side to the hated New York
Yankees? Apparently. Yankees president Randy Levine has shelled out the
maximum donation to Brown`s reelection campaign, $25,000 -- actually,
A column in "The Boston Herald" doesn`t give the Republican incumbent
a free pass for accepting it, either -- quote -- "That`s right, the
commander of the Evil Empire is helping to pay for all those Brown ads
championing his support of the Red Sox. It`s one thing to be bipartisan,
Senator, but this is taking it a little too far. There is no compromising
in baseball. And now the Yankees` honcho is playing for Scott Brown`s
team. What`s next, Derek Jeter endorsing you?"
Well, a statement from Brown`s spokesman says the candidate views the
contribution as -- quote -- "their way of paying us back for Babe Ruth."
Well, also, how did Mitt Romney get on the wrong side of a small
bakery in Pittsburgh and the 7/Eleven chain all in the same sentence? Take
a look at what happened when Romney joined locals for a picnic this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. ROMNEY: I`m sure about these cookies. You know, they don`t look
like you made them. Did you make those cookies? You didn`t, did you?
No, no. They came from the local...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bakery.
M. ROMNEY: ... 7/Eleven, bakery or wherever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. Fire those cookies? Well, the cookies in question
were a very special addition to the picnic thanks to a very popular local
bakery, the Bethel Bakery.
Romney`s comments did not sit well with the owner, who said this: "We
wanted him to be welcome with the best in the Burg. He had no idea -- this
guy has no idea how beloved this institution is that provided those
Wow. Romney left his mark on that town. One of today`s featured
items at the Bethel Bakery was called the Cookie-gate Special. Buy one
dozen, get six on the house.
As for 7/Eleven, they plan to send some sample cookies to Romney`s
Finally, Florida Republican Allen West, boy, he`s a piece of work, is
still under fire for insisting that from 78 to 81 House Democrats are
communists. Really, communists. West was asked to get specific in an
interview with CNN`s fabulous interviewer Soledad O`Brien this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: Start naming of the 78 to 81.
REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: Oh, you don`t have to...
O`BRIEN: No, we do. I`m dying to know, which are the members are
WEST: You can go look up the congressional...
O`BRIEN: I have got them right there. Keith Ellison is a communist?
WEST: Soledad, Soledad, you know something?
O`BRIEN: Raul Grijalva is a communist?
WEST: It is not -- I`m calling it this. Communist, progressive,
Marxist, socialist, statist, which is another term that`s been used, I`m
looking at the ideologies. I`m looking at the things that they believe in.
We need to stay a constitutional republic. And I think a lot of
people need to study that and understand what it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this guy was either a no-show in history class or
he`s a wanna-be demagogue. You decide.
Up next, new details in the Secret Service sex scandal coming up here
on HARDBALL, including what really happened that night at that hotel.
We`re going to talk to the reporter who actually interviewed the escort --
that`s her title -- at the center of the story next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."
The Dow closes off its session low, but below 13000, losing 68 points,
and the S&P sheds eight and the Nasdaq loses 24. Bank of America and
Morgan Stanley reported better-than-expected earnings earlier, but existing
home savings dropped 2.6 percent in March and weekly job claims fell by
just 2,000 to 386,000.
Finally, after the closing bell, Microsoft earnings topped estimates,
sending shares higher in after-hours trading.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- Now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
New details are emerging from Cartagena as the woman in the heart of
the Secret Service prostitution scandal tells her side of the story about
just what exactly transpired that night, a night that has so far cost three
people their jobs.
NBC`s Kristen Welker is at the White House and "The Washington Post"`s
David Nakamura is also with us.
David, thank you for joining us.
And let`s start with Kristen here.
Let`s make the point, what do we know about the latest developments
KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, first of all, you
mentioned those three people who have been ousted from the Secret Service,
essentially, two supervisors, one non-supervisor. So that happened, and we
should say right off the top we`re expecting more people to leave
potentially by the end of the week.
In terms of what`s happening in Cartagena, investigators are moving
swiftly to try to really unravel what happened there. So far, we can
report that they have interviewed the housekeepers, the staff at that Hotel
Caribe, which is where this alleged incident happened, and now their big
challenge is to find those women, those alleged prostitutes who are
involved in this entire incident.
We should say that in terms of their investigation, they didn`t find
any drugs and they didn`t find any evidence at this point in time that
security was compromised. Having said that, it is so crucial for them to
get in touch with those women to try to figure out exactly what they know,
were they able to confiscate any type of sensitive information or papers.
But, as of right now, lawmakers on the Hill who have been briefed on
the investigation do not believe that there was any breach of security,
MATTHEWS: David, tell me what you can about the events that night.
Are we able to get a clear picture of what happened, how these men, all of
them are men, managed to find themselves in the company of sex workers that
DAVID NAKAMURA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, what we have reported so
far, Chris, is that this night started as sort of a party out with heavy
We have already reported on some visits to a strip club, including one
named the Play Club, which was described as sort of a typical kind of strip
club, except that, as everybody knows by now probably, prostitution is
legal -- legal and regulated.
And so from, what we understand, the men involved in this brought at
least two of the women from the Play Club out of the club. I think you pay
a fee for that. And then they took them back to their room, and over -- in
all, as we have said, 21 women are suspected of checking into the hotel,
the Hotel Caribe, where the president`s advance staff was staying.
They had to check in with their I.D.s to prove they were not under age
because of the idea that some of women may be taken advantage of. So they
all checked in with their I.D.s. And then one failed to check out the next
morning and that`s when the hotel got suspicious and as we know the events
escalated when there was a dispute over payment.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Kristen on the political impacts down
here in Washington.
I get a sense this is turning partisan. Is it, the attacks?
WELKER: Absolutely. It absolutely is to some extent.
I mean, first of all, lawmakers on the Hill today expressing their
outrage, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Nancy Pelosi calling this
disgusting, Harry Reid coming out and saying that this is absolutely
But I think what really stood out from all of the sort of speeches
that were given on the Hill today was Senator Jeff Sessions, who actually
questioned the president`s ability to manage his own administration in the
wake of this.
And I can tell you I sat in the daily briefing today, and almost all
of the questions were about this scandal. White House Press Secretary Jay
Carney addressed what Sessions said directly and said, that`s pure
politics. He`s just turning this into a political incident, and that`s not
what this is.
And I should also say, Chris, that the White House continues to stand
by Director Mark Sullivan. But what`s so problematic about this for the
White House is that it has almost overshadowed the message that the
president is trying to get out in terms of the economy, in terms of energy,
and, of course, we are heading into the thick of the election year.
So the timing of this is not ideal, certainly, for the White House.
MATTHEWS: And that`s true of the event itself.
I was down there moderating a discussion among three presidents,
including the president of the United States, and it was all about the
great economic hopes for Latin America and how it`s going to help us here.
And unfortunately that part of the message about what we can do in this
hemisphere, which is so much more important -- you could argue -- than this
kind of a mess, but yet it`s not as exciting, of course, to talk about.
David, let me get back to, does it all come down to the fact that this
might have gone unnoticed, all this kerfuffle, all this talk about, I`m
outraged, like out of "Casablanca," I can`t believe this is going on, all
this outrage, faux or real, would not have occurred if this one guy had
paid the prostitute?
MATTHEWS: I mean, to be blunt about this, isn`t what it seems to be,
the reporting leading down to one incident at 7:00 in the morning?
NAKAMURA: It may be. I mean, I think there was more than one
incident in terms of misbehavior and misconduct. There`s a lot --
NAKAMURA: -- of evidence to show and we`ve seen three people already
And I think the key, yes, it may have started because one guy didn`t
want to pay and there was some misunderstand that certainly escalated. We
understand the Colombia authorities were very upset as they got into with
the Americans. And then it was reported to the diplomats.
But the bigger question is high up this went in the Secret Service?
NAKAMURA: You know was there culture, was there knowledge of it? We
know that the two senior managers were pretty high level. They`re based
here in D.C. They both have 20 years of experience, roughly so, in the
agency, which suggests -- did this happen before? If so, did people know
about it? Why were two senior managers partying with the younger guys and
really setting example for the guys they were there to supervise?
That`s the questions I think --
MATTHEWS: Along that line, along that line, we`re all playing
investigator here on this one -- did anybody organize the evening and say,
we`re going to collect a couple hundred bucks apiece, you`re all going to
get company for the night, and I`ll supervise to make sure there`s
transportation taken care of? Or was each one of these guys, maybe they
drank too much -- I can see the scene, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning going to
a strip show, 2:00 or 3:00 in them morning finding prostitutes around you
and getting involved with them.
Was it all spontaneous, like it sounded good at the time, or was
there an orchestrated aspect from someone who put it all together? Do we
NAKAMURA: I get a sense -- I get a sense there was a night out, and
that was clear. This was a couple days before the president arrived. What
we understand is these guys didn`t have a whole lot of assignments at that
point, they had some free time and there was no curfew on these guys.
MATTHEWS: I got you.
NAKAMURA: And so, it`s not clear if they picked all the women up at
one place or different groups. That`s what some of the investigators are
trying to get to the bottom of and I think there`s conflicting stories
MATTHEWS: So we don`t know whether it was an organized evening,
let`s have sex workers involved with women tonight.
NAKAMURA: There`s no evidence of that, and some of our reporting in
Cartagena suggest that possibly the women came from different clubs. Not
to say that there wasn`t some sort of communication ahead from the men
going out, you know?
NAKAMURA: But we know the taxi drivers are encouraged by the club
and I believe get some sort of royalties suggesting to foreigners to go to
these clubs, you know, with money to be made, and so, it may have been
that, you know, a night got carried away, or, you know, was it
premeditated? It`s hard to say.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, we`ll find out in the days ahead.
Thank you so much, Kristen Welker, it`s great having your reporting
And, David Nakamura, nice to meet you, of "The Washington Post."
Boy, you`re in a hot story every day. I read you on the front page.
Up next, there are just five living members of the president of the
United States. It`s called the presidents` club. They actually get
It`s interesting how they do interact and we`re going to get this
story. What are they like when they get together, and what do they think
of each other? Do they help each other, do they like each other? These
are all guys retired from politics, more or less.
This is HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s at least one Northeastern state that slipped
back up into the tossup category, and that`s New Hampshire. Let`s check
the HARDBALL scoreboard.
A new Dartmouth poll shows Mitt Romney with a slight lead over
President Obama in the Granite State. We knew this was a problem with the
president. Romney is at 44, the president at 42. In a tight race, New
Hampshire`s four electoral votes could be critical.
We know that, and we`ll be right.
MATTHEWS: We are back.
And the members, by the way, of the most exclusive club in the world
have one thing in common. They`re all -- well, they called 1600
Pennsylvania their home. The former U.S. presidents have shared experience
that transcends party lines and the surprising history of their
relationships, personal relationships is detailed, believe it or not,
finally in a book "The Presidents Club: Inside the World`s Most Exclusive
Fraternity," is co-authored by "Time" magazine`s chief bureau chief here,
It is a fantastic story. It`s one of those things everybody says, I
wish I had written this and nobody has before. Let`s start off with the
relationship between George Sr. -- let`s take a look here. They were all
welcomed to the winners` circle in January of 2009, following the club`s
tradition -- outgoing President Bush offered a few words of support. Let`s
watch these guys together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Whether we`re Democrat or
Republican, we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can,
we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have
served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I wish we had a wide shot but there they are, all
these guys together. His father was there, of course.
Here`s the wide shot with Bill Clinton, of course, and both Bushes
and the president.
MICHAEL DUFFY, CO-AUTHOR, "THE PRESIDENTS CLUB": And all these guys
now have a relationship with Bush Sr. It`s kind of the president`s called
one is his son, one is his adopted son. Barack Obama didn`t really know
his father either.
They all kind of have a father-son relationships with him. He
advises all of them. He`s friends with one of them. He`s father to one of
them. The club is a really interesting place because of the role the old
MATTHEWS: And there`s the odd man, Jimmy Carter.
MATTHEWS: He`s not part -- he`s not clubbable, is he?
DUFFY: He unites the club. He gives them something to talk about.
MATTHEWS: They don`t like him.
Let`s a look at the relationship. It was so close that one of George
Bush Sr.`s sons called him a brother from another mother.
DUFFY: Yes, the Clinton --
MATTHEWS: Here`s Bill, what he had to say about his rapport that
he`s established with Bush Sr. as almost a daddy figure. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It got so ridiculous, our odd
couple partnership, that Barbara began to refer to me as her black sheep
son, you know, the one that strays, there`s one in every family, gets the
politics wrong or makes some other mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DUFFY: It`s good for Clinton to have this relationship. It kind of
softens him a little bit, helps Bush. They have all been through the
experience of this impossible job. They all come out with deep scars and
really, no one else can understand what it`s like to have done it. And so
despite their differences across age --
MATTHEWS: But Bill Clinton knocked George Sr. out of the job.
MATTHEWS: And he got over that.
DUFFY: He did. And Bush is the one who had to get over that and did
it, and he did it at a time when his own son was president. So, it helped
the family brand to be doing it. And then, of course, Clinton and Bush Jr.
have become almost like --
MATTHEWS: Let`s look at my favorite president, Jack Kennedy, getting
advice from Dwight Eisenhower, the man who received the Nazi surrender.
There would be a guy you want to get some advice from. At the brink of
nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy called Dwight
Eisenhower, his predecessor.
And here is their phone conversation on the morning Kennedy was about
to announce a quarantine of Cuba. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: General, what about if the
Soviet Union, Khrushchev, announced tomorrow, which I think he will, that
if we attack Cuba, that it`s going to be a nuclear war. And what`s your
judgment is to the chances they`ll fire these things off if we invade Cuba?
DWIGHT EISENHOWER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Oh, I don`t believe they
KENNEDY: You don`t think they will?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
DUFFY: Imagine how reassuring that was for Kennedy to hear the old
master, the general say don`t worry, everything is going to turn out fine.
MATTHEWS: But he is wrong.
DUFFY: It turned out to be wrong --
MATTHEWS: Because Khrushchev in his memoir said he intended to fire
on New York if we fire on his missiles there, and even if he had two big
ones left, he was going to try to kill millions of people in New York.
DUFFY: It was true.
MATTHEWS: So, Ike was wrong.
DUFFY: He was wrong, but it was probably the advice Kennedy needed
to hear in his first life and death crisis of his presidency.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about President Clinton and President Obama,
the two. Because that still matters. This coming election going to need,
it seems to be, based on the numbers we had here, a real close election.
DUFFY: Obama is going to have to count on Clinton to appear for him
all through the fall and doing fundraisers starting next week, I think.
MATTHEWS: Bill Clinton.
DUFFY: Bill Clinton with Obama. They haven`t always gotten along,
they kind of fight about, you know, who`s the real Democrat, who`s going to
save liberalism, but at election time, Clinton will do whatever, and I
think more -- probably 40 to 50 events for Obama before the year is over.
MATTHEWS: If Senator -- and now Secretary of State Clinton wants to
run for president, who knows, a lot of people think she will, I think she
will, but I don`t know. If she runs, she`s better off if Obama gets
DUFFY: And she`s better off if her husband helps Obama get
MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, let`s take a look. Here`s the president doing
kind of an endorsement in that famous 17-minute piece done by -- it`s just
been put out, the thing by David Guggenheim. Here he is giving the
president of the United States credit for the way he took care of Osama bin
Laden and risked his legacy in the bargain. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He took the harder and the more honorable path. When I saw
what had happened, I thought to myself, I hope that`s the call I would have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He is so good --
DUFFY: You hear the music --
MATTHEWS: No, it`s the voice.
DUFFY: I know.
MATTHEWS: When he does that, I don`t know what you call that, deep -
MATTHEWS: Croak, and it`s so authentic and historic.
DUFFY: And he confers on that moment on Obama, the Oval Office, the
Presidents Club seal of approval on national security. And, don`t forget,
that`s an Obama video. He will be doing that over and over as we head into
MATTHEWS: And so, tell me the bottom line for the "Presidents Club".
It`s a fat book, by the way. You can actually buy this book. It`s quite
available right now. It`s a heck of a book. I`m telling you, it`s my
beach reading for the whole summer.
But it`s really an amazing because it`s candy for people who like
shows like this.
DUFFY: It shows that these men, who we think of as different, and
the individuals actually have relationships among them that go back, you
know, in some cases, decades and they`re much more complicated and
interesting than you would have guessed.
MATTHEWS: You know, it reminds of the way boxers like each other.
MATTHEWS: You know, heavyweight boxers -
MATTHEWS: Everybody roots one of them to knock the other guy`s head
off and then afterwards, you find out that they`re really close friends.
MATTHEWS: Max Schmeling and Joe Louis were friends.
DUFFY: That`s exactly what this is. It`s competition but also
consolation, and also partnership. They actually help each other off stage
all the time.
MATTHEWS: What`s your favorite story you dug up between the
DUFFY: When Clinton goes to see Reagan after he`s inaugurated.
Reagan says to him, you got to learn how to salute. If you`re going to
play this role, if you`re going to be the president --
MATTHEWS: Slow up --
DUFFY: And a fast down.
MATTHEWS: Fast down. And he learned it in Hollywood.
DUFFY: When he was an actor.
MATTHEWS: I love this stuff.
Anyway, the book is called "The Presidents Club," you`ve got to get
it, if you like this show, you`re going to love this. Look at it. Duffy
did this, Mike Duffy, what a guy.
When we return, let me finish with those stories on how the former
presidents got to be so close. I`m actually quite taken with these
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:
I love those stories of how the former presidents get to be so close,
especially Bill Clinton getting to be like a son to the senior President
Bush. Think about it, this is the guy he beat and now Bill is out there
speaking openly about how he feels towards the older man. I completely get
it and for totally personal reasons.
Bill Clinton lost his father early on in a car crash, never really
had him as a father. Then he had a stepfather who beat up his mother, to
the point where young Bill who was big for his age had to stand up and
threaten that guy. He said he would beat him up if he ever touched his
Imagine. It`s not hard how Bill feels toward a perfect gentleman
like the senior George Bush, a guy who obviously loves his children, who so
clearly knows how to show affection, how to be really the kind of a father
young Bill Clinton, and yes, grown up Bill Clinton never had.
I do think of Dick Nixon, too, and the way he wanted to so much be an
older counselor of sorts to Clinton back when Bill Clinton was first in the
presidency. OK, maybe there was some guile there, some Nixonian guile,
I`ll accept that. Maybe Nixon wanted to use the young Democratic president
to bring him back into public life the way a Republican president couldn`t
I think about Harry Truman for example brought back Herbert Hoover
into public acceptability back in the `40s by giving him in charge of the
Hoover Commission that reorganize and reform the federal government back
after World War II.
But there was also something there that was human, Nixon had two
great daughters, but he didn`t have a son, and maybe Bill Clinton was the
kind of young political star he imagined having for a son, and maybe Bill
Clinton who knew his own imperfection saw in Nixon a guy who wasn`t as
judgmental and holier than thou as so many public figures come across as.
The thing is, as someone who looks up the politicians, I love to see
they can get along, at least after all of the games of day-to-day politics
are over with. But wouldn`t it be great if they could show the same
humanity when they were playing the game? Wouldn`t it be good for the
country if they`d find a way to let their human side show when they came to
finding the sort of compromises, human comprises to get to the heart of the
challenges now facing this country like our growing debt and this chaotic
immigration situation we have? Wouldn`t that be something?
This is HARDBALL, and this has been HARDBALL. Thanks for being with
"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.
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Guests: Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman, Kristen Welker, Hampton Pearson, Michael Duffy, Steve McMahon, Todd Harris, David Nakamura