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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Friday, May 18, 2012

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Jackie DeAngelis, Eugene Robinson, David Corn, Joan Walsh, Bob Shrum, Michael Hastings, Joe Sestak, Buzz Bissinger

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: When in doubt, attack the preacher.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight,
the great Chicago fire. Are you as surprised as I am that the people who
don`t like the president can`t think of anything better to hit him with
than the preacher he had back in Chicago? But that`s just what we`re
hearing right now.

The right believes John McCain missed his chance four years ago. It`s
convinced that if only the country really knew about Jeremiah Wright, it
never would have voted for Barack Obama. In the fever swamps of the right,
this is the key to winning the White House this time. It`s only the
question of which "Dirty Angry Money" PAC will take up the cause.

Also, two things worth noting about Mitt Romney`s Bain Capital
problem. One, nearly 20 years later, he still doesn`t have a good response
about what he did with that company. And two, as long as he doesn`t, the
Obama people are going to keep hitting him on it hard.

Look at the interactive map they put together at Bain`s -- of Bain`s
greatest hits around the country. All of them happen to be in swing

Plus, President Obama is spending time with war vets. Why vets may be
ready this time to vote Democratic.

And the great author Buzz Bissinger (ph) joins us tonight on learning
to connect with the son he barely knew.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Romney, the closet W.

We begin with the right wing and Jeremiah Wright. Eugene Robinson`s a
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post" and David Corn
is the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones" and the author of the book


MATTHEWS: Both are MSNBC political analysts. Let`s look at the...

say that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, I do mean to say it was great. Some people believe -
- and this is about television, the medium we`re on right now -- that the
reason they bring this up, the reason they get the big 54-page plan for
this, the reason that Hannnity`s talking about it and -- they want to keep
showing the "God damn America" line from Reverend Wright.


MATTHEWS: They just want us to ring that frickin` bell one more time.
Is that -- is that smart thinking?

be. I mean, I -- I frankly don`t know how far this gets them this time.
It`s not as if everybody doesn`t know about Jeremiah Wright. I think this
is kind of red meat for the...

MATTHEWS: Well, I hear Ricketts, this wealthy guy who owns the Cubs -
- he believes down in his gut, or somewhere in his quarters, hindquarters -
- he believes that this is great. He loves...


ROBINSON: But the people who believe it`s great are the people who
already hate Obama, right? So I mean, I wonder how many people they`re
convincing, people who...


ROBINSON: ... who haven`t heard about Jeremiah Wright.

CORN: What does black liberation theology have to do with the auto
bail-out, have to do with the stimulus...

MATTHEWS: Killing bin Laden.

CORN: ... have to do with the "grand bargain," killing bin Laden?
It`s really ludicrous. I think, in a lot of ways, you have these
Republican political consultants, like Fred Davis in this case, going
around and finding these venting billionaires, who I call "villionaires,"
and saying, Listen, we have the killer book (ph)! You give us $50,000,
$500,000, whatever it is...


CORN: It`s a vanity production. You can go back to your club and
tell all your pals, Hey, I took out Obama with that ad.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look. Here`s a guy who`s on television
who thinks maybe just like them. I`m not -- I can never tell with Sean
what he believes and what he`s putting out there. But here he is. He
showed Mitt Romney repudiating the attacks and placing the focus on the

But Hannity disagreed with what he sees Mitt saying. He says, Oh, he
doesn`t want to do it? He ought to do it. Here he is, siccing `em,
siccing Mitt on the president. Let`s watch.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS "HANNITY": Governor Romney, I have to
respectfully disagree with you. Now, I do believe the economy, jobs,
national security are by far the most pressing issue facing the country

I also feel that every candidate, though, needs to be fully vetted.
Now, that`s something the mainstream media failed to do back in 2008 with
Barack Obama, and I believe that the president`s relationship with the
Reverend Jeremiah Wright, a man that influenced him for over 20 years,
inspired him, is a very important campaign issue. After all, it is a
matter of character.


MATTHEWS: OK. OK. We`ve watched this guy as president for four
years. People watch him pretty astutely and with a lot of care. We`re not
seeing the president? We`re not seeing this Geronimo character, this
lefty, crazed, wild person who`s buried in the soul of this guy that`s
going to leap out because of Jeremiah Wright?

CORN: After his reelection...


ROBINSON: Four years in office is what I call vetting, you know?


ROBINSON: (INAUDIBLE) that a full vetting. If you`ve got the job,
you`ve done it for four years, and so people can decide. They like what
he`s done, they don`t like what he`s done. They like what he might do,
they don`t like what he might do.


MATTHEWS: Let`s do a psychoanalysis of this guy, Sean Hannity.

CORN: Oh, please!

MATTHEWS: What is this -- no, no. Is this showmanship, or does he
really have in his doubt (ph) -- does he really believe that there`s some
other person under this guy we`re watching, this sort of debonnaire
president we have, a bit cool, a bit elite in some ways, but underneath all
that is some crazed revolutionary?

CORN: Well -- well, you say, actually, Newt Gingrich during the
campaign talk about Saul Alinsky and that this guy`s just waiting to be a
real socialist dictator once he gets reelected.

I mean -- but look it -- look at what -- Sean is saying this on FOX
News, that there wasn`t a vetting of President Barack Obama on the Jeremiah


CORN: I think they went 24/7 wall-to-wall on Jeremiah Wright on FOX


MATTHEWS: First of all, they got -- they love Alinsky because it
sounds basically like a communist back in...


MATTHEWS: And then they -- like -- he`s like a black revolutionary
with the automatic weapon, the big sunglasses, the beret, right? That`s
who they -- is that Sean`s image of this president?


MATTHEWS: ... guy who likes to play golf. In fact...


MATTHEWS: ... trying to learn to play golf.



MATTHEWS: He`s trying to learn. He won`t even tell us the score.
He`s just trying to learn!

CORN: Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: There`s a lefty, if I ever saw one!

CORN: This is -- this is the image, the Bill Ayers, the Sarah Palin
thing, he`s palling around with terrorists. It all goes back to this
notion that he`s not us.

ROBINSON: Exactly!

CORN: He`s not American.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

CORN: Whether it`s because he`s black or a socialist or whatever he

ROBINSON: We don`t know what he is, but he`s...


CORN: Now it`s time to figure it out...


MATTHEWS: Look at Michelle. Doesn`t she look like one of those
lefties from the campus...


MATTHEWS: ... straggle-haired, hanging around the campus type? She`s
a fashion plate! She`s perfectly turned out...

ROBINSON: No, no, no, she`s the angry black woman.


MATTHEWS: That`s what I don`t see. They`re raising perfect kids.
They`re all well turned out. They (INAUDIBLE) they`re Mr. and Mrs. Perfect
in everything.

CORN: They have fooled you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: And there`s some kind of...


CORN: You have fallen for it.

MATTHEWS: ... and they`re meeting in the middle of the night with


CORN: It`s a ruse! When they`re bailing out the banks...

MATTHEWS: OK, we laugh...


MATTHEWS: We laugh, but somewhere, somebody must be believing this
stuff, this crap.

CORN: I`m sure it`s good for ratings at FOX, right?


MATTHEWS: Did you hear that, dear? Come in here! Did you hear what
Sean says? He`s really one of these people!


ROBINSON: There are people who believe this stuff, but they were not
going to vote for Barack Obama! So...



CORN: ... actually, seriously puts Mitt Romney in a difficult


CORN: ... because as they...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s...

CORN: ... catch him on this...

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch Romney...


MATTHEWS: Here`s Romney, well-educated guy. Here`s what he thinks,
OK? I guess. Or he -- himself brought up Reverend Wright in a radio
interview with Sean Hannity, I like to say, in February, honoring Black
History Month.



MATTHEWS: ... to comments about the president, about the country`s
increasing diversity. Here`s Romney hitting him left and right. He`s too
secular. He listens to his preacher too much. Now, listen to which one he
must think. Here he is. Listen.


again, that the president takes his philosophical leanings in this regard
not from those who are ardent believers in various faiths, but instead,
from those who would like to see America more secular. And I`m not sure
which is worse, him listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that -- that
we -- we must be a less Christian nation.


MATTHEWS: Well, hit him on the left, hit him on the right!


MATTHEWS: Can`t win. Goes to church, doesn`t go to church. What?
OK, here he is. He was asked about those radio comments yesterday. Mitt
Romney had this to say.


ROMNEY: I`m actually in a -- I`ve been -- I`m not familiar precisely
with exactly what I said, I stand by what I said, whatever it was.



MATTHEWS: Well, there -- anything that works, flat (ph) or round

ROBINSON: Yes. I -- I personally deny whatever I said whatever...


CORN: So listen, it`s -- you know, to not joke about it, for him to
come out and say that he wants this country to be less Christian, you know,
when he professes his Christian faith, Barack Obama, that is, you know,
it`s kind of insulting. And where does he get it from? It`s just feeding
to this notion, again, that there`s something weird, revolutionary. He
wants to subvert America and its grand traditions. In other instances,
he`s said that he -- that Barack Obama doesn`t understand what`s special
about America.


CORN: He doesn`t get American exceptionalism?


CORN: It`s all part of the same playbook. He does it in a more
gentle way than Sean Hannity and the birthers...


CORN: ... it`s all the same thing.

ROBINSON: Do we want to get into what Mitt Romney sat on the pew
listening to in church?

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the point...


ROBINSON: ... until 1978...

MATTHEWS: Do you think Sean or...

ROBINSON: ... when he heard...


MATTHEWS: ... may have called up Sean and said, You just opened up
the religious issue. That`s not smart.

ROBINSON: Well, exactly. And what he heard until 1978 was that black
people are cursed and cannot be...


MATTHEWS: So why would he want to open up that book?

ROBINSON: I don`t think he would.

CORN: I don`t think he should. It doesn`t help him. But he --
listen, he has to pander and he panders on both sides of the equation in
that one statement.

MATTHEWS: You know, the thing about it, what bugs me is they say he
doesn`t believe in American exceptionalism. And I do believe this
president does look to the rest of the world as not evil or rotten.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) the rest of the world. It`s just part of the
world we live in, common humanity. But I don`t think anybody`s been more
poetic than this president about the exception of this country when he
says, Only in this country is my story possible.

CORN: That`s why it makes no sense for Mitt Romney to do that, a
smart man. But he said that he apologizes for America, he doesn`t get
America. And this is a consistent theme...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk practicality...

CORN: ... in all his speeches.

MATTHEWS: ... in the next three or four months, as we go into the --
into the -- the playoffs, if you will, the debates -- are they going to go
into this area? Are they going to do Reverend Wright? I see Sean pushing
it. I see this advertising guy, Fred Davis, who tried to get McCain to use
it. Their key -- people tell me that they`re going to keep pushing it, and
some of these wealthy guys, as you said a few minutes ago, love it. They
eat it up. So there`s a market for it in the -- in the money -- the bunny
(ph) guys. They like it.

ROBINSON: I think the establishment is going to like it a lot less,
to tell you the truth.


ROBINSON: I think the Republican establishment is not going to be so
eager to go down this...

MATTHEWS: Why not? Why won`t they go down the road, the dirt road?

ROBINSON: Because I think they`re not going to see a lot of game (ph)
there. And potentially, you open up the religious issue. Do you really --
do you really want that to be a central issue in this campaign?

CORN: This is a problem that Mitt Romney`s going to have because
whether it`s Jeremiah Wright or something else, there will be super-PAC
billionaires out there putting on the most hateful ads. And again and
again, the press is going to call on him to say, What do you think of this?
This is being done for your benefit, although not by your campaign. And
it`s going to put him in this jam between blasting these people...

ROBINSON: Absolutely.

CORN: ... and maybe alienating parts of his base and actually looking
reasonable to independent voters, who don`t like this stuff. So he -- you
know, he...


MATTHEWS: ... just to where he plays (ph) -- I don`t know what`s
worse, his secular ideas or his crazy religion he gets from Reverend
Wright. He is willing to just tease it in both directions. He`s dancing
on this, Romney. He`s not pulling back.

CORN: Oh, no, you`re right...



CORN: ... going to be tough for him, I think.

MATTHEWS: This is going to be a pretty rotgut campaign, it looks like
to me.

Anyway, thank you, Gene. Have a nice weekend. David Corn, as well.

Coming up: Mitt Romney still hasn`t figured out a good response to
those questions about Bain Capital. He gets hit on it, and yet he sort of
has a glass jaw on this. What`s this about? We`re going to find that out
next from a real expert, Bob Shrum, who`s been fighting this campaign for
years against Bain.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave
her graduation speech at Georgetown University Law School today despite
protests from conservative Catholic groups. The secretary`s speech was
largely about religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

At one point, she was briefly interrupted by an anti-abortion rights
activist. Here it is.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Having spent my entire life in
public service...



SEBELIUS: I`ve spent my entire life in public service.




MATTHEWS: Well, I love the way they booed that guy, then hectored
(ph), and then cheered when he was hauled out of there.

The students, by the way, wanted her to speak today. They wanted her

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Wonder of wonders. Welcome back to HARDBALL. Mitt Romney
still hasn`t come up with a response to the issue that torpedoed that 1994
Senate campaign of his against Ted Kennedy, when he was handed -- actually,
handed a win to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, the same thing, criticism
for his leadership of Bain. He can`t defend it.

Now, 18 years after Ted Kennedy branded Romney`s work with Bain as a
liability, Obama`s team is invoking the same tactic with straight -- rate
(ph) success, and it shows up here.

Bob Shrum, Democratic strategist, the man who worked with Ted Kennedy
back then, with the anti-Bain ads that ultimately led to Kennedy defeating
Mitt Romney in the `94 Massachusetts Senate race. And Joan Walsh is, of
course, our friend, MSNBC political analyst and Salon`s editor-at-large.

Look, this is fun! You have found -- they used to say with a bayonet,
you stick it in, if you get mush, you keep sticking it in and wiggling it a
couple times, if you hit bone, you pull back.

It seems, Bobby, every time you guys hit him with Bain Capital, you
got mush and you can just squeeze it and turn it around a lot, right, to
use an awful reference to bayonets. Isn`t that true? And Obama`s doing
the same damn thing you guys did with no bone matter. It`s just all mush
in there.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. He was paralyzed in 1994. He
didn`t even respond at all for days. The workers hired a bus, came to
Massachusetts, tried to see him. He wouldn`t see them. And as a result,
he kept the story alive.

Look, this goes to the central rationale of his candidacy. It shreds
the idea that he`s a job-creating businessman, and therefore, a Mr. Fix-It
for the economy. And it`s also the beginning of a narrative arc that`s
going to move from what he did in the private sector to his positions on
public policy, like destroying Medicare, lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy,
being a governor who was 47th in job creation.

If that narrative gets told, gets told effectively and gets told
unimpeded, by the end of this process, he`s going to be the candidate of
the few, by the few and for the few.

MATTHEWS: You know -- you know, Joan, I got to tell you, it`s amazing
how our languages get twisted. I hate phrases like "WMD," you know, and
this "homeland" crap and everything.


MATTHEWS: But the worst of them is "bail-out," which Bush W. created.
He created the bail-out because we had to have so many of them. "Job
creators" -- did you notice that everybody who makes a buck out there is a
"job creator"? I thought they went out to make a living or make some

He`s like the king of this notion of BS, which is you make -- you --
you know, I went to work today. Guess what? I went out and created jobs
today. That`s what I did.


MATTHEWS: No, you went out to make a paycheck. And this guy -- does
look like this -- Mitt Romney look like a guy who really cares about
creating jobs, or does he look like a guy who likes to make a lot of money?
And there`s nothing wrong with it, exactly.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: But you don`t brag about it, you just do it. He brags
about it. Your thoughts?

WALSH: And he`s changed his story many times. He created 100,000
jobs. It was 10,000. It was a few thousand. He doesn`t have to worry
about creating jobs. That`s not what he does. Every time he`s challenged
on it, he comes around with a different explanation.

And that`s why I think what Bob did way back when was very powerful,
and it`s even more powerful now. You know, I was just sitting here,
thinking, 18 years ago, the babies who were born that year are going to
college next year, if they can get into college, if they can afford
college. And you`ve got a man, Mitt Romney...

MATTHEWS: That`s if their old man or their mother mothers didn`t lose
their jobs because of Bain.

WALSH: Well, Exactly. And you`ve got Romney saying, Oh, actually, go
borrow money from your parents to go to college. He doesn`t get it. He
didn`t get it back then.


WALSH: And he continues to have -- he`s got a glass jaw on this.
It`s character assassination.

MATTHEWS: Well, I like my bayonette better. That`s my bayonette.
Anyway, here`s what they`re doing now. The Obama campaign has launched a
Web site now, pretty clever stuff., it`s called. It
goes hand in hand with its ad portraying Romney as a cutthroat, bottom-line
business guy. Here it is. They select the swing states here, five of
them, and they`re running ads in it. They`ve got eight states, but they`re
doing ads in five of those states now, including a number of workers laid
off in each state.

So Bob, they`re going around systematically showing you how many jobs
have been lost. The pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA is up there with
its own anti-Bain ad now in Iowa, as I said, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado
and Virginia. Let`s watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Romney and Bain Capital, the objective was to
make money.

Whether the companies they came in and worked with made money or not
was irrelevant. Bain Capital always made money. If we lost, they made
money. If we survived, they made money. It`s as simple is that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He promised us the same things he`s promising the
United States. He will give you the same thing he gave us nothing. He
will take it all.

NARRATOR: Priorities USA Action is responsible for the content of
this advertising.


MATTHEWS: That`s strong stuff, Bob. That`s a strong ad.


SHRUM: Yes, it`s really powerful for the same reason the `94 ads were
powerful. It`s real people talking to real people, Reagan Democrats, blue-
collar Democrats talking to voters in swing states.

And Romney had to know this was coming for months, for years. It`s
amazing to me that they seem paralyzed. I think what they are going to do
ultimately is put some people say from Staples out there and say he helped
create jobs. The problem is Bain had two businesses.

One was venture capital and the other was what -- I don`t quote him
very often, what Rick Perry called vulture capitalism. Take over a
company, squeeze it, load it with debt, fire people, make millions and then
be done with it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And then get back on the aircraft you came in on, the
Conehead phrases he uses.

Let me go back the this, Joan. Great politicians like Tip O`Neill and
Ted Kennedy and even Reagan in an interesting television way were able to
connect with the guy working on the line. They heard the voice of the
politician, they said, yes, he is with me. The Reagan Democrats voted for
Reagan for that reason. He talks to me.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: This guy Romney is at a particular disadvantage here. When
you whack him as a job killer, he looks like one. He looks like the white-
collar guy in the office overlooking the destruction of the plant. He
looks like one of the efficiency experts that comes in.

He doesn`t look like the guy who is your foreman or the guy that works
with you or your business agent at the labor union. He doesn`t look like
he connects with workers, does he?

WALSH: No, he doesn`t. He doesn`t look like it and he doesn`t sound
like it. And he hasn`t been able to learn to fake it.

We all got a good laugh out of that aircraft line. Who talks like
that? You`re right. We`re from France. We`re Coneheads.

MATTHEWS: Coneheads do.

WALSH: Coneheads do.


WALSH: Somebody who is doing an imitation of a human being talks like

MATTHEWS: Yes, an earthling.

WALSH: Of an earthling.

And he just -- he simply can`t master it. And I think this is going
to be a crisis. Bob was saying we didn`t seem to anticipate this. We were
saying the same thing, Bob, a few months ago when the tax return issue came
up. He didn`t seem to anticipate this.

And it is a kind of entitlement where he`s been sheltered from certain
kind of questions. How dare you question me, sir or madam? And now he`s
having to be in the rough and tumble of day-to-day politics, and these
things, especially these clash issues, keep hitting him and hitting him and
he`s just never ready for it because he never expected to have to answer
for these things.


MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Joan.

Here he is with his response. This is the best he can say. I haven`t
seen this ad yet. They say it`s pretty good. It`s the first of his
general elections ads. It`s going to be over in a month, the 1st of the
month, by the way, about a day one in the Romney presidency. This is
apparently what he`s going to do day one. I want you, Joan, to respond to
this quickly, but let`s watch it.

WALSH: Sure.


NARRATOR: What would a Romney presidency be like? Day one, President
Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of
jobs that Obama blocked. President Romney introduces tax cuts and reforms
that reward job creators, not punish them. President Romney issues orders
to begin replacing Obamacare with commonsense health care reform. That`s
what a Romney presidency will be like.

approve this message.


MATTHEWS: Well, it had a good beat to it. A lot of throbbing
business machinery going there. It did sound right. Nice music.

WALSH: Nice music. It`s not quite morning in America, but he`s

Look, it`s an important thing for him to do. He needs to define who
he is and what he`s going to stand for. But these things don`t make sense.
Keystone doesn`t add that many jobs. Replacing Obamacare with what? And
tax cuts for the job creators. There it is again. Rich people are job

We`re are the job creators.


WALSH: Consumers are the job creators and that`s what the Obama
campaign is really going to have to really hit him hard on, and I think
people are starting to get that.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s my bitch with the Obama campaign, Bob. And
you`re going to heat it too, Joan.


MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why the president doesn`t have a massive
infrastructure program right now creating five million jobs right now, put
it out there before the Congress, point to the jobs you`re going to do,
point to the highways and the bridges you`re going to fix, show the work
you`re going to do, the number of jobs you`re going to create.

Show the guys and women out there working and say it`s the Republicans
who are stopping this. I don`t understand why he doesn`t have something
like that ad in real life on the other side, on the Democrats` side. Your
thoughts, Bob.

And this is something that Eddie Rendell and a lot of other people and
Mike Bloomberg are talking about it, and infrastructure, infrastructure,


MATTHEWS: I don`t understand why the Democrats aren`t the old kind of
wages guys who say, let`s go out there and create jobs, and if the
Republicans say no to it, fine. But we`re going to let people what we have
got in our bag and this is what we stand for, putting people to work.

SHRUM: Yes, look, they`re listening to you, Chris, in Chicago and in
the White House.

MATTHEWS: Well, I hope they`re listening this minute.

SHRUM: They may ultimately do something.

I think they are listening. I think they listen every day, and I
think ultimately they may do something like this. They`re going to draw a
whole series of contrasts with Romney on jobs, on taxes, on Medicare, on
his record in business.

MATTHEWS: Let that stiff McConnell say no.


SHRUM: I agree.


MATTHEWS: And let what`s his name, Boehner, cry over it, but have a
jobs bill they have got to say no to. Don`t say no to yourself.


SHRUM: That`s what Harry Truman. It`s Harry Truman did. And I think
they may do it.


MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

WALSH: And it is in the jobs bill. It may not be as prominent as we
would like it.


MATTHEWS: No, big, big. Just like in that commercial, big.


MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

WALSH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Have a great weekend and think about big jobs programs.

SHRUM: Thank, Chris.

Thanks, Joan.

MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, Joan Walsh, great friends.

WALSH: Bye, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, guess who now says attacking Mitt Romney over Bain
Capital is a bad idea? Newt Gingrich. The Newtster. And that`s ahead.
Don`t listen to that guy. This is HARDBALL.

By the way, he`s like Freddy Krueger. He keeps coming back. And it
is Friday. Anyway, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And this is surely the stuff of

The Obama campaign is out with a new ad this week painting Mitt Romney
as a corporate villain type for his stint as CEO of Bain Capital. You have
heard it all before, right, and not from team Obama.


to go in at a very low price, borrow an immense amount of money, pay Bain a
great deal of money and leave. Now, I will let you decide if that`s really
good capitalism.


MATTHEWS: Well, get this now. Newt has now offered some advice to
the Obama campaign in an interview with "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
-- quote -- "Gingrich said his experience should be a lesson to Obama that
that dog won`t hunt. Gingrich said the attack will not resonate in voters`
minds as they think, you want me to be mad because in one company somewhere
Romney may have in fact been involved in someone losing their job while you
as president have been involved in millions of people losing their jobs?"

Reminder to Newt. Your Bain attacks helped you win the South Carolina
primary. And remember why backed off, Mr. Gingrich? Your fellow
Republicans blasted you for knocking free enterprise, not because it wasn`t

And yesterday GOP Congressman Mike Coffman offered a half-hearted
apology, apology for spouting birther talk. We had that on last night.
Now Ken Bennett, Arizona`s secretary of state, the person responsible for
running the state`s election, says he`s waiting for proof that the
president`s birth certificate is authentic, something the state of Hawaii
has confirmed more than once.

Well, here he is, the secretary of state, in a radio interview


believe that the president was born in Hawaii, or at least I hope he was.

But my responsibility as secretary of state is to make sure that the
ballots in Arizona are correct and that those people whose names are on the
ballots have met the qualifications for the office that they`re seeking.

QUESTION: If you don`t get an answer from Hawaii in time, if they
won`t comply, if they refuse to comply with this, will you remove the
president from the ballot?

BENNETT: That`s possible if -- or the other option would be, I would
ask all of the candidates, including the president, maybe to submit a
certified copy of their birth certificate, but I don`t want to do that.


MATTHEWS: You know, you know how you`re a birther? You talk like
one. That guy won`t quit, will he?

But earlier this year, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed -- Jan
Brewer vetoed a so-called birther bill which would have required potential
candidates to prove their citizenship. That`s right. Tea Partier Jan
Brewer, she called the whole thing a -- quote -- "bridge too far."

Up next, can President Obama do something Democrats rarely do? He
wants to win the veterans` vote. And vets may well be with him right now.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


CNBC "Market Wrap."

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OBAMA: Instead of being celebrated, our Vietnam veterans were often
shot. They were called many things when there was only one thing that they
deserved to be called, and that was American patriots.

In two weeks, on Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join our Vietnam
veterans and their families at the Wall to mark their 50th anniversary of
their service.


MATTHEWS: Good for him.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was of course President Obama at the Medal of Honor ceremony just
yesterday where he gave a posthumous award to a Vietnam War Veteran. the
president and first lady have made outreach to military families a
priority, as you have noticed. And yesterday, the Obama campaign rolled
out its Veterans and Military Families for Obama effort, really people now.

Traditionally, military have gone Republican, of course, since the
Cold War began. And the Obama campaign wants to change that.

Michael Hastings is a correspondent BuzzFeed and has extensive
experience covering the military.

We all know that pretty well, Michael, after getting McChrystal for
"Rolling Stone." And he`s author of the new book "The Operators: The Wild
and Terrifying Inside Story of America`s War in Afghanistan."

Joe Sestak, my compadre, my soldier in arms, he`s a former
Pennsylvania congressman, a former admiral in the Navy for 31 years.

Mr. Sestak, I want to talk to you because I know your heart is with
these guys. You`re one of them. I want to talk about the fact that here
we have a president. Is part of this about the fact, well, certainly this
war isn`t the most popular war in the world, the one in Afghanistan. The
war in Iraq certainly became less popular. But also a lot of -- there`s a
sense of almost like -- it`s not like we`re mad at the people that fight in
these wars like they were in the Vietnam War.

It`s like we don`t think about them, and the president is trying to
bring attention to these people that have served their country.

JOE SESTAK (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I can`t tell you definitely,
Chris, and it`s great to be back with you, if that`s the major reason, but
it is a reason? You bet it is.

Less than one percent of all families in America have been involved
with a member of their immediate family in this conflict. And I think that
remembering that veteran, instead of like he mentioned where after Vietnam
we kicked them to the curb , is something that he has focused on.

People tend to forget in Pennsylvania, our home state, 47 percent of
our veterans sitting there in jail are there for a drug- or alcohol-related
crime. They came back from Vietnam, PTSD. There was two recessions during
Vietnam and they couldn`t get a job. And they`re into drugs and all of a
sudden a gun is used.

We have done much better. We`re not -- far from perfect, but I think
his highlighting the veterans is something he should be doing, and it`s
also a much more diverse service, a lot of minorities, a lots, of women.
We`re a better force, and I think it will be one here where he will be
fighting quite legitimately for that vote from veterans and military

MATTHEWS: I was watching that recent time he went over to
Afghanistan, one of the wars that Americans are just not that thrilled
about, Michael.


MATTHEWS: And you can read faces. Obviously I have always said
what`s amazing about the military, they more than anything else in America,
I think television is really good, but it`s really integrated.

It really is diverse. It really has a lot of different kinds of
people, different ethnic backgrounds, colors, if you will. And he seems to
get the radiant -- what do you call it, the radiant face from people. They
really like this guy when he comes over there.

HASTINGS: Oh, certainly, when they see him in person, they embrace
him and love him.

The Obama campaign has bent over backwards to make inroads with
military veterans, military personnel. I think it`s also important to
remember, I think the days of the Republicans having the lock on this kind
of national security vote are over. I think that the last 10 years, the
failed policy in Iraq and then also the struggles in Afghanistan have given
a lot of people in the military second thoughts about just lining up behind
the Republican Party.

We see it with their support of Ron Paul and we have seen it in `08
with their actually quite significant support of Obama. I think 45 percent
of the military vote went to Obama in `08. So, if they can continue to
even make it even, I think that`s huge progress.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Is the military more hawkish that the rest of the
country or not? Is it more reasonable because it knows that bad wars mean
tremendously bad duties, bad village, bad futures?


MATTHEWS: Michael, you`re hitting a point there.

HASTINGS: Right, I think the last eight years have made it less
hawkish, actually. I mean, every soldier I talked to wants to get out of
Afghanistan, almost everyone. I mean, I would say 75 percent to 85
percent. So, I think they have experience with the military, they have
experience with these wars, and Obama is the candidate who is saying, look,
we`re going to end these wars.

What`s Romney`s position on this? I mean, you know, Romney doesn`t
have any military service. What`s he going to do to appeal to the veterans
that Obama doesn`t have? Except say, oh, we`re going to stay in
Afghanistan for another 10 years.

So, I think it gives the president the edge.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t think Romney has it in the whole history of
his family.

Anyway, back to you, Joe. You were going to say something about the
attitude of soldiers now about these decisions about war, not whether they
have the guts to fight, and they certainly do in their training. But this
decision-making -- I just wonder if they automatically vote Republican any

JOE SESTAK (D-PA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I have found in my 31
years in the military, that military men and women tend to be a bit
conservative about utilizing our military. And I feel that to a large
extent, someone on the field has always been used carelessly in the past


SESTAK: We`re used to setting goals and trying to achieve those, not
having the goals move down the yard line like it happened in Iraq. I also
think that this president to a large extent, erase the deficit that the
Democratic Party has had, the deficit since Vietnam, of owning national
security credentials, ending a tragic misadventure in Iraq because it was
harming our national security here at home, being willing to violate
international air space to Pakistan, and then to it aggressively to
eradicate al Qaeda, and then be able to say I`m going to pivot to our
military and our national security to the western Pacific where the real
challenge for us this century is.

I find that to a large extent, his ability to think through and
present as a Democratic president, as a president, but also not coming into
office with the Democratic Party`s own credentials has boded well with his
thoughtfulness and how he`s approached. Again, not everything is perfect

But he has truly had success in supporting our military well
overseas, removing them where they shouldn`t be, and second, taking care of
veterans as they come home.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think Democrats are good at welfare ands looking
out for people and health care and all kinds of things. Republicans tend
to like the war but not so much in taking care of the troops afterwards.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Hastings. You`re a hell of a reporter.

HASTINGS: Yes, thank you.

MATTHEWS: And, Joe Sestak, are you running for governor, Joe?


MATTHEWS: You want to go for governor and knock Corbett off after
one term? He`s vulnerable. Come on, go for it.

SESTAK: You know, I understand what to do. But I got to tell you,
my daughter the other day, Alex, said, dad, you`re in my homework too much.
So, I think I`ve got to get a job.

MATTHEWS: OK, maybe governor makes sense.

Up next, the great writer Buzz Bissinger, a Philly guy, the author of
"Friday Night Lights," one of the great books ever written, he`s joining us
to talk about his new book, "Father`s Day." It`s coming up, by the way, in
June. It`s a poignant story of his relationship with is mentally disabled
son. What a book. Buzz joins us right here in a minute.

This is HARDBALL, place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Facebook went public today after one of the biggest IPOs
in U.S. history. And here`s another example of how central and social
media Web site has become. Traditionally, pollsters ask which presidential
candidate you would rather have dinner or beer with and now it`s which one
you would rather be friends with on Facebook. Really?

And for that, we check the HARDBALL scoreboard. According to a new
Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll, more people would rather be friends on Facebook
with Obama, 37 percent picked the president. But surprisingly strong 33
percent say Mitt Romney. The same poll gave Romney a 3-point edge overall,
47-44 over the president.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

My next guess is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who authored the
bestseller "Friday Night Lights." What a book.

His new book is much, more personal and it`s about a story involving
him. In 1983, Buzz became the father of twin boys born more than 13 weeks
early, each weighing less than two pounds. The first, Jerry, has gone on
to graduate school, has working on a doctorate and found success as the
teacher. The second, Zach, suffered brain damaged, has left mentally
disabled, living the life of a savant.

A few years ago, Buzz took Zach on a trip chronicled in his new book,
"Father`s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son."
It`s an incredible and honest account of parenthood. It is as much about
finding his son as it is about finding himself.

Welcome, Buzz. You know, we don`t do shows like this much, but I
have never read anything as good as this.

BUZZ BISSINGER, AUTHOR: Well, thank you.

MATTHEWS: The writing -- we`re used to books ghost written by
politicians and by journalists around here. You are not a ghost writer,
you`re a writer. I wish I could just have you read it --

BISSINGER: Hey, I`m game.

MATTHEWS: I mean, the first part of it -- tell us about Zach, your
son, and the life he lives right now, where he works.

BISSINGER: Well, you know, Zach has made a lot of progress. As you
say, he`s mentally disabled. His comprehension is about an eight to ten-
year-old level. But he works, he bags groceries at a grocery store and
stock supplies at the Philadelphia Daily News.

He lives at home with his mom. We`re divorced. I see him on the
weekends but he`s never going to drive a car, he`s never going to marry.
He`s never going to live alone. I don`t know if he`ll ever kiss.

So, his life is different from a lot of people and certainly
different from his twin brother.

MATTHEWS: Why did you take that trip across the country with him?

BISSINGER: You know, I love Zach to death, but I felt this was an
opportunity for him and I to be together to really -- not to get to know
each other but for me to really discover him, to be in a car with him. I
love the open road.

The only problem was Zach confided about a third of the way in he
would much he would rather fly and hated the car, which made it somewhat
complicated. But I wanted to, as they say, discover him.

And I felt it was important for the first time ever to tell him what
he is like, and what is wrong, and what his future can hold.

MATTHEWS: And you asked him about his condition.

BISSINGER: I did, and it was a very, very -- probably the hardest
conversation I ever had. We were on the Indiana toll way, and I said,
Zach, do you know what brain damage is?

And he basically said, yes, I know something is wrong with my brain.
I remember the words "my brain isn`t right."

As a father, I was gratified that he knew, that he was that self
aware -- but I mean, Chris, you know, you have kids --

MATTHEWS: That blew me away.


BISSINGER: When you hear your son says that, I`m getting shivers.

MATTHEWS: And you said in the book, "I was not prepared for him to
say that he knew his brain was not right. I was not prepared at all. It
was the risk I took by even asking. And yet I felt gratified. I feel
gratified. It does not always float in some ether of happy ignorance.
He`s aware of himself."

But to have a child, your child, any child, say "my brain isn`t
right" is still unimaginable.

BISSINGER: Yes, it was crushing. But as I say in the book, he is
self aware and on the trip over and over, he proved an awareness, an
empathy, he was very observant in a way that I had not noticed.

MATTHEWS: You know, there`s a couple things that strike me as human
there for everybody, not just your situation. One is just trying to find
quality time with your kid. I took my daughter on a trip.


MATTHEWS: You know, when you want to go across the country, she may
not want to be daddy`s girl.


MATTHEWS: But it takes a couple of days, then it does become great.

But the other one is my mom had Alzheimer`s, and I remember, you ask,
do people know they have Alzheimer`s, anybody watch now as a caregiver, God
bless you, of course, for what you`re doing.

But you know, I watched my mom, I found some scribble from her. My
dad kept it, her trying to write in the end. You know, you still see her
still trying to make, and she knows you can`t do it anymore. You`re very
aware of it.

And this kid of yours, he`s a big kid, I didn`t realize in these
pictures what a big kid he is. And the thing, we all saw the movie, what
was the one with Tom Cruise?

BISSINGER: Yes, "Rain Man".

MATTHEWS: "Rain Man."


MATTHEWS: About the theme is it`s not going to change.

BISSINGER: It isn`t. I mean, he is maturing in some ways, but he`s
going to be bagging groceries for the rest of his life. He is going to be
stocking supplies for the rest of his life. He is a savant a little bit
like Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Main." He has an incredible memory for dates
and birthdays. If you give him a date, January 21st, 1993, he can tell you
the day.

MATTHEWS: How? Is it a calculation?

BISSINGER: No, I`ve asked that a million times, and he says it`s
just in your head.

MATTHEWS: You`re talking about savant. It`s so rich in this book
just to learn about savants, the ability of the guy, you say on what page
does the word torpedo on? And the kid will say 314.

How can you have that knowledge of all the words in the book, for
400, 500-page book, but and yet they can`t give you any logic about

BISSINGER: No, and they don`t really know -- the one theory I heard
that`s fascinating is basically those kids and my son, they are very right
hemisphere oriented, which is all concrete. And they actually think the
brain, the right hemisphere basically talks to the left hemisphere and
says, in effect, can we borrow some of your cells because you`re not using
them. which would explain the heightened abilities.


MATTHEWS: I want to know where the gloves are, why do you want
gloves, it`s summertime. You need glove. It`s work gloves the guy wants
and it doesn`t --

BISSINGER: Yes. I mean, there is no abstract thought, and their
sense of logic is totally different.

MATTHEWS: And in past times, who took care of these kinds of kids.
You`re a loving parent. Your wife is, of course, too.

BISSINGER: The original title for kids like this was idiot savant.
Fortunately, we have gotten rid of that. One of the problems is, is that
this is becoming more of a problem, more single parents and more single
moms are having premature children. They`re very difficult to take care
of. They`re going to often have mental problems, hospitals want to get rid
of them, and Zach was lucky because he had loving parents. But I think
it`s a good book for all parents.

MATTHEWS: I keep thinking about five reasons to buy this. First of
all, it`s Father`s Day, give it to a father who understand, any father will
understand it, because any father has kids with different abilities,
disabilities and some kids don`t love their parents as you want them to at
that moment, and they can`t connect, and this is also about maybe you`re

BISSINGER: Well, I think that`s true.

MATTHEWS: Maybe some people are luckier that you are. But what a
book, what a great writer you are. You`ve done it again, Buzz Bissinger, a
prayer for the city, you keep doing it. "Father`s Day," got it? For
Father`s Day.

Buzz Bissinger, that`s why he`s doing it. That`s why the date,
Father`s Day. He`s going to be at Politics and Prose in the city store, in
this city for bookselling. Everybody goes to Politics and Prose. In fact,
I go there when I got to nowhere else I go, I go to Politics and Prose.

BISSINGER: Come tonight at 7:00.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with how Mitt Romney`s
economic plan looks just like, guess who? George Bush`s economic plan.
It`s the exact same thing that got us into this mess in the first place and
he is not changing it in the least. Why do you want to go back to that?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Would someone tell me how Romney`s economic program differs from W`s?
OK. Take a while, but tell me, Mr. Turnaround, how would you have avoided
the catastrophe that Bush took us into, where have you have signaled a 180,
a smart course correction from the cut taxes, reduce regulation, full speed
ahead, that took us careening into the worst economic horror since Hoover?

I know the answer. I know you`re a W. ditto head. I know that you
believe with the Republican skipper this boat believe, that all a smart
captain of industry just has to do what every dues-paying member of the
U.S. Chamber of Congress wants him or her to do -- cut taxes, give me more
money, and stay out of my way. That`s it, isn`t it, Mr. Romney? You want
to do for business what any business wants any president to do, when it
cheered when W. did it.

So, the question the voters have to ask is this: why do you have a
different result when you keep doing the same thing? Why do you, Mr.
Romney, expect to take us anywhere different than that downward whirlpool
W. skipper send to in 2008, when we had the signal of distress, ship in
trouble, and sent for Hank Paul and the salvage boats, when he, George W.
Bush, brought the phrase bailout into American political parlance.

My only question is this: if the Bush were so great, if you`re
squared and rigging to that same sinking ship W. left as president to get
back to port, why do you sing the praise of Bill Clinton so often these
days? Can we safely predict that the person you that will hide between now
and November is the guy whose policies you`re out there selling?

No wonder you don`t want to mention his name. You put us on that
course, mister, and we`re going to the same collision.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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