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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

August 30, 2012

Guests: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joan Walsh, Sam Stien, John Harris, Joe Klein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Feeling lucky?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Tampa, at our channel-side
location just outside of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the
Republican national convention. There we are with all the people here.
There she is.

Mitt Romney comes into prime time television tonight. The question is
whether he`ll come into national focus or not. There will be clever, of
course, winsome lines in his speech, no doubt some chuckle-worthy ones
about his choice of music on his iPod, all to portray him as a good-hearted
square, perhaps a bit out of touch, but a bit closer to your heart.

But we need to look for the real person behind the words tonight, the
back story to what`s presented because it is the back story, the real
person, who ends up walking into the Oval Office and being there far longer
than the memory of what is scripted, practiced and offered up tonight
that`s important.

Clint Eastwood, for example, is an actor who will appear tonight. He
gives away his true character, his flinty toughness whatever his script.
The question is tonight, what character will Mitt Romney reveal in his
moment of national close-up?

Joining me is Howard Fineman with the HuffingtonPost and "New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann.

I have to ask you gentlemen about some questions and challenges facing
Mr. Romney right away tonight. Let`s go to the advantages and
disadvantages, starting with the disadvantages, the character questions.

Let`s look at this. It`s evident in these NBC/"Wall Street Journal"
polls that he has some problems about being easy-going and likable. Obama
beats him by a whopping 35 points on the question of likable and easy-
going. And this is more important, perhaps. On caring about average
people, Obama beats Romney by 12 points, more than double digits. On being
honest -- (INAUDIBLE) killer -- and straightforward, Obama is ahead of
Romney by 11 points.

I don`t think the performance by Ryan last night helped the honesty
factor, either, at all. We`ll be getting to that later in the show.

Howard, you`re shaking your head. The honesty thing -- I didn`t think
that would show up that high.

I didn`t think it would show up that high, either. And I think -- I think
he can forget about the likability number. Mitt Romney is not overnight or
in the last two months of this campaign going to come anywhere close to
Barack Obama as a likable guy you`d want to sit here on channel side and
have a --


FINEMAN: -- and have a cup of coffee with.

MATTHEWS: Have a Postum with.

FINEMAN: Have a Postum with.



FINEMAN: So that`s -- that`s not of a concern. The other two are
very much of a concern, and those are the numbers that Mitt Romney has to
address tonight. And I think he has to address them in narrative form,
Chris, in some way. When Ann Romney spoke the other night, she basically
said, Take it from me, Queen Ann --


FINEMAN: -- that the king is a really good guy.

MATTHEWS: He brought home a quarter billion dollars!

FINEMAN: OK, but --

MATTHEWS: Of course he`s a good guy!

FINEMAN: But -- but -- now, Stuart -- Stuart Stevens, who is the
speech writer for Mitt Romney, has been working with him up in Wolfeboro.


FINEMAN: Stuart is a -- is a novelist and he`s a narrative guy. I
would expect to hear some narrative tonight and I would expect to hear
about the father again. You`ve heard about him before. You hear about him

When I first went to the Mitt Romney headquarters last spring, the
biggest photograph of a politician on the wall was not of Mitt Romney but
of George Romney. And in Mitt Romney`s mind, when he`s standing up there
tonight, he`s going to be thinking about his father. You`re going to hear
that tonight, I predict.

MATTHEWS: And the father who was born in Mexico --


MATTHEWS: -- the father who gave away 12 years of tax returns --

FINEMAN: Right. The father --

MATTHEWS: -- is this guy`s role model (INAUDIBLE) jokes about birth

FINEMAN: Well, that`s -- that`s that`s certainly a big irony.


FINEMAN: And the honesty thing -- you`re right on the honesty thing,
and Ryan`s going to hurt him on that.

MATTHEWS: I think Ryan`s got a whole list of problems right now of
calumnies, or whatever we`re going to call them.

Your thoughts about his performance. What`s he have to do? Does he
hit the honesty button, the question of likability or what? What`s he got
to hit hardest?

think Howard is right. He can`t fix the likability thing. It`s just too
large. The gap is too big. You know, when you look at this race, you
think about all the personal attributes where he`s behind President Obama,
and yet the race is still even. And part of the reason for that is he does
have this one strength, the one personal characteristic that people think
he`s better to manage the economy. The economy --

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s be honest. He`s not the current president.


HEILEMANN: And so there are people who are worried about that. And
he`s been able to advance that. Howard, I think, is also right about this
point about narrative. All three of us are writers up here to one extent
or the other. You know, we know the difference between illustration and


HEILEMANN: You had Ann Romney the other night did exposition. She
asserted things in bullet point form -- he`s this, he`s that -- but she
didn`t give us illustrative stories, anecdotes, things that revealed him.


HEILEMANN: I think this speech has to be like that, and it`s got to
be stories about his father. It could be stories about his kids. I think
he`s got to go to the places like talking about Bain. Why did he -- why
was he so successful at that? What did he love about Bain? What does he
love about his church? What does he love about his family -- and tell
people about it in a way that makes him not seem like an android anymore.

FINEMAN: Chris, I would also --

HEILEMANN: That`s his problem. He`s like Hal 2000. He`s not human.
He needs to be human.

FINEMAN: He`s been reluctant to talk about the church. He doesn`t
like -- well, first of all, he doesn`t like to talk about himself. He`s
been reluctant to talk about the church.

But you`re going to see his service, I predict -- you`re going to see
his service and his role as a servant within the church coming through, if
not by name. Don`t forget, leaders of the Mormon church -- bishops, so to
speak -- refer to themselves as presidents. He was president of the Boston
state, the Boston region. He believes in that idea. If he can convey that
idea, it would be helpful.

One other thing I`ll say. For all the distractions that have been
thrown at him, for all the questions he`s had to answer from the campaign
on Bain, on taxes, on mismanagement, on misstatements, on this and that,
he`s right there in the horse race here.


FINEMAN: So the number one thing he`s got to do is to do no harm. He
can`t create any other problems for himself with his speech tonight. In
other words --

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s be honest about a couple things. He`s got the
easiest audience in history tonight. Those people will laugh at the most
lame jokes. They`ll laugh at the iPod jokes (INAUDIBLE) isn`t funny.
They`ll laugh at anything.

FINEMAN: Yes, but they also appreciate that he picked Paul Ryan --
whatever Paul Ryan`s problems with the rest of --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a -- let`s get to --


HEILEMANN: Just be clear, though. That`s not his audience. His
audience tonight, as we all know --


MATTHEWS: -- will laugh.

HEILEMANN: They will. But he`s -- his audience --


HEILEMANN: He`s speaking to the people --


HEILEMANN: He must speak to the people outside the hall, and he knows

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to substance, honesty, dishonesty. Medicare --
these are the substantive questions. Who would do better handling the
issues of, say, Medicare, Obama, according to our NBC/"Wall Street Journal"
-- a new poll out, Gallup poll, actually, whether Obama or Romney would
better handle a series of issues, as I said, starting with Medicare.

Look at this, 12 points up for the president. Who would better handle
the economy? Romney up by 9, no surprise. And who`d do a better job of
the federal budget deficit? Romney, 15. So he has some strengths there.
The Republicans are nationally seen as better on the debt issue. That
makes sense. It`s historically the party of fiscal responsibility.

HEILEMANN: But you saw last night -- you know, there are a lot of
problems with Paul Ryan`s speech last night, substantive problems, lies,
misstatements. But the thing that we --

MATTHEWS: What was the biggest real lie? Not (INAUDIBLE) what`s the
biggest -- you call -- "lie" is a hard word, but which one fits that

HEILEMANN: Well, I think the story of the plant in Janesville is the
thing you can point to that`s most concrete as an actual misstatement. But
the bigger, misleading thing is all the jazz (ph) hands (ph) around
Medicare. And that actually goes, though, to the -- to the thing I was
about to say, which is that that`s where President Obama has the lead right
now, on the issues, right, is that 12-point lead on Medicare.

We saw last night a political angle that Paul Ryan adopted that,
actually, I think could have some traction.

FINEMAN: Well --

HEILEMANN: It`s based on misleading facts, but the notion that you`re
reining (ph) Medicare to pay for "Obama care" is a potentially very
politically salient argument.

FINEMAN: Yes, but the number one thing he`s got to stress is the
economy. First of all, on the debt, to have a big lead on the debt is not
as material in terms of the campaign.


MATTHEWS: I`m waving my arms because I want to move on to something
really fun. Our producers have put something really good together. It
showed the fact it wasn`t a natural love. This was almost a -- not an
arranged marriage, but it was slow to take.

Look at -- look at the -- it wasn`t a shotgun marriage. Come on. The
road to the altar for Romney and the GOP was not easy, and a
RealClearPolitics graph charts the, you might call it rocky courtship --


MATTHEWS: -- before the primary began in earnest. Romney had the
inside track before the primaries. He`d been at this for five years, after
all. Then Texas governor Rick Perry -- remember him? He swaggered onto
the dance floor and took Republicans for a whirl. By mid-September of last
year, he led Romney by more than 10 points. That`s Rick Perry. But the
romance was short- lived with Perry.

Next up, Herman Cain. Mr. 9-9-9 topped Romney by about 2 points in
early November of last year, but Mitt held tough. Then it was Newt
Gingrich`s turn. By mid-December, Republican primary voters were in his
thrall, but a little of Newt goes, as we know, a long way.

In February, Rick Santorum came calling. At his peak (ph), he led
Romney by more than 6 points, but he couldn`t go the distance, either, and
by March, it was clear Mitt Romney had outlasted all comers. And tonight,
he`ll accept his party`s nomination. Well done by (INAUDIBLE)

Howard, they didn`t go for this guy naturally.


MATTHEWS: It`s his turn. In Republican culture, your turn is
important. But even though it was his turn -- he`d lost narrowly last time
-- they still liked the other guys first.

FINEMAN: First of all, Mitt Romney forced himself into a business
that is politics that he`s not suited for, to begin with. Then he took
over the Republican Party that didn`t really want him. He said he`s
resolute, I`d say implacable is an even better word.

He picked the one guy -- one of the guys, Paul Ryan, who could settle
the question with the base. He doesn`t have to worry about the base now.
They like him because he, Mitt Romney, picked Paul Ryan.

Now what -- now what Romney has to do is go out and sell the 10
percent or so of undecided voters out there who are going to see -- be
seeing him for the first time. The one thing -- you have to be impressed
by his refusal to fail, by his refusal to go away --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

FINEMAN: -- by his refusal to take no for an answer.


MATTHEWS: No, he`s Maddie (ph) in "Body Heat."

FINEMAN: At some point --

MATTHEWS: He`s relentless!

FINEMAN: At some point, that has to be regarded as a virtue.


MATTHEWS: Is he lowering the bar by saying, I`m just a place holder
on the way to Ryan-ism?

HEILEMANN: Well, I don`t think -- I don`t think --


HEILEMANN: I don`t think he`s putting that forward. It may turn out
to be true. But the other thing that I think you have to admire in him,
and I know the White House does -- a White House official said to me once,
you know, He kills (ph) wealth (ph). And that`s not unimportant, you know?
That`s (INAUDIBLE) the thing he did more better than anything else was
raise a ton of money and killed everything that got in his way. And being
a killer in politics --


FINEMAN: That`s so right.


MATTHEWS: I think that`s the way you get elected in many local
offices. You make sure nobody else is alive, politically.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. We disagreed on something there
for the first time! John Heilemann -- I still think he`s the road to Ryan-

Anyway, coming up, from the Republican national convention here in
rather dampa Tampa -- said for the 50th time -- Paul Ryan likes to say he`s
speaking the hard truth. Well, last night, he missed a couple, which is
ironic since his speech last night, of course, was full, many say -- many
objectives out there -- objective people saying it was full of dishonesty.
And he`s going to have to listen to fact checkers sooner or later.

Also, what do Republicans mean when they say they want to restore our
country to the founding principles? What about things we`ve learned along
the way and gained from, like Civil Rights, women`s rights? Our country`s
struggled, grown and moved forward. Isn`t it time to get out of the 18th
century, Mr. Scalia?

Plus, Romney`s not the first awkward candidate to run for president.


I`m reporting for duty!


MATTHEWS: Well, according to Politico, there`s a rich tradition of
awkward campaigners, from John Kerry to Al Gore to Dick Nixon. We`re going
to take a look back -- a little fun tonight, a little light-heartedness
down here in Tampa.

And all night tonight, we`ll be having continuing live coverage of the
Republican convention, including what promises to be an interesting speech
from Clint Eastwood. Six minutes of Clint`s a long time. NBC has
confirmed the Hollywood legend himself will be here with a big surprise
guest appearance. Tonight, we`re going to see what he has to say about
Mitt Romney.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



that plant, candidate Obama said, I believe that if our government is there
to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years. That`s what
he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn`t last another
year. It is locked up and empty to this day.


MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL. That was Paul Ryan`s speech last
night, and some serious factual omissions and commissions that (INAUDIBLE)
Let`s start with that GM plant in Janesville. It`s one of the most
egregious of the errors he spoke last night. He implied it closed due to
Obama`s policies. Well, history shows it shut down in December of 2008.
The president at that time was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama.

It was far from his only piece of dishonesty, however. Here`s what he
said about the Simpson-Bowles debt commission.


RYAN: He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back
with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then
did exactly nothing!


MATTHEWS: Well, what he failed to mention is that as a U.S.
congressman, he was actually a member of that commission and voted against
its final urgent report.

Here`s another one on Medicare. Take a look.


RYAN: Even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care
takeover, even with the new law and new taxes on nearly a million small
businesses, the planners in Washington still didn`t have enough money.
They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So they just
took it all away from Medicare -- $716 billion funneled out of Medicare by
President Obama.


MATTHEWS: Well, why is that hypocritical? What he doesn`t tell you
is that in his own budget proposal, Mr. Ryan, the man you just hear, keeps
those $716 billion in cuts and savings in his budget, which he voted for.

Well, believe it or not, we`ve only scratched the surface right now of
the distortion, dishonesty and pure fiction in Ryan`s speech. People are
going to be digging into this speech for a while now.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is U.S. congresswoman from Florida and the
chair of the Democratic National Committee --


MATTHEWS: -- Joan Walsh (INAUDIBLE) Salon. She`s the author of
"What`s the Matter With White People?"

Let me ask you, Madam Chairman -- I, first of all, do not get the joke
that Mr. Huckle-chuckle Huckabee last night said you were rehearsing your
speech in the room next door. Now, Joe, my friend, says it was sexist, and
I thought that was over the top until I thought, Well, what else is the
joke here? Is there any joke? He said, I heard this awful noise, meaning
the sound of a female voice, which, apparently, is an awful noise to Mr.

apparently, that Mike Huckabee is unfamiliar with the voice of a strong

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hear -- let`s hear Huckle-chuckle right now.
Let`s hear him. Let`s hear him, Huckabee taking a shot at the madam


hitch in an otherwise perfect week was the awful noise coming from the
hotel room next door to mine. Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman
Schultz practicing her speech for the Democratic national convention in
Charlotte next week. Bless her heart.



MATTHEWS: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. What is the joke? What is the

OK, let`s talk about the serious stuff. I can see a congressman
playing politics. I can see overstating and rhetoric (INAUDIBLE) We`ve all
grown up with it. But he said that plant closed because of President
Obama. It closed in his district before Obama took office. How could he
not have known that, when he was involved in trying to save that plant?

SCHULTZ: He knew it. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have put the
Republican national convention on a diet, on a fact-free diet, one that
means that they`ve spent this entire week doing their best to distort, lie,
mischaracterize the president`s record because they know they don`t have
the facts on their side. They know their policies are so extreme. They
know that they`ve proposed to increase taxes on the middle class to pay for
budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. And they`ve
got the wrong policies when it comes to women`s health, the wrong policies

MATTHEWS: Let`s stay on --


MATTHEWS: Like, this is what I want you to do --

SCHULTZ: I could go on.

MATTHEWS: I know you can!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, I just want to stick to this because it`s so
(INAUDIBLE) When you catch him in a lie, focus on this thing. Anyway, Ryan
also put the blame for the country`s credit downgrade squarely on the
shoulders of President Obama. Let`s listen to that.


RYAN: It began with a perfect triple-A credit rating for the United
States. It ends with a downgraded America!


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a total mischaracterization of what happened,
since the reason Standard & Poor`s downgraded the debt rating had a lot to
do with the Republican Congress playing a dangerous very game of chicken
over the debt ceiling. And we all watched it.

Ryan also pushed some bogus information about the stimulus. Let`s
listen to that.


RYAN: The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate
welfare and cronyism at their worst.

You, you, the American people of this country, were cut out of the
deal. What did taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt.


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s just not true. Of course, taxpayers got
everything, a lot out of that stimulus. More than 25 percent went to tax
breaks alone. It wasn`t spending. A lot of it was tax cuts.

Also, most economic studies found that the stimulus had a positive
effect on the economy.

Let me go to you, Joan, on this thing.

I don`t understand why he did the plant closing. That`s sticking his
chin out. He`s going to be banged for that. He knew it was wrong. I also
don`t know how he thought he`d get away with saying the president didn`t
back the debt commission. I think, in retrospect, he should have done it.
But he was on it and he brought it down.

WALSH: That`s right. No, it`s ridiculous.

The thing about the plant closing is even more interesting, Chris,
because I wrote a piece last night that I called Paul Ryan`s brazen lies --
I called them lies -- and I`m getting all this right-wing pushback, which
you`re very familiar with.

The thing they keep saying is, well, after the auto bailout
restructuring, there was a potential that Janesville might have reopened,
but it wasn`t. I`m sitting there like, so, President Obama was supposed to
be the czar, picking winners and losers out of the economy, which is what
they hate. He would be like one of those central planners that they hate.
What are they talking about?

But this is what they`re doing. And they feel like they can get away
with it.


MATTHEWS: Congresswoman?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Paul Ryan didn`t mention last night in his speech
that he asked for stimulus funds for his district.

WALSH: Right.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And in the letter that he asked for the money said
that it was because he thought it would create jobs, so this is a guy who
voted against the stimulus, and then asked for money from it because he
said it would create jobs, but said that it didn`t.

MATTHEWS: You know how his budget -- you`re an expert on the budget.

You have studied it.

But you`re the expert. You have been in there voting. You know how
it systematically cuts poor people`s stuff. It cuts Medicaid, which we
know is for poor people, people below the national poverty level. We know
he`s cutting all this discretionary spending because that`s the poor people
stuff. We know that.

Here is his brave claim last night. He talked about the
responsibility that he felt of the strong in society to protect the weak.
This by the way is why he was protested at Georgetown for failing to meet
Catholic standards of social justice.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: But here he is denying that and claiming he`s better than
that. Here he is.


RYAN: We have responsibilities one to another. We do not each face
the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities is that of the
strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it
treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.


MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that, Joan?


WALSH: Well, I think that might have been the most brazen lie or
distortion because the Catholic bishops who are often on the side of the
Republican Party, unfortunately, the Catholic bishops went out of their way
to slam him on his budget and to say that it doesn`t honor the preferential
option for the poor that Catholic social teaching requires us to have.

The Catholic bishops have said how horrible it is to poor people and
that it doesn`t balance the budget, but that it takes money from poor
people to give more tax breaks to rich people.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I sit on the Budget Committee. I had a
front-row seat for the Romney-Ryan version of how we should budget.

And they take a slash-and-burn approach to education, to college aid,
to Head Start, to health care. If that is reaching out and understanding
the plight of people who are struggling in this country, it`s a really
bizarre definition.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know things we don`t know. We watch from the
outside. You`re on the inside, Congresswoman, Madam Chairman.

When you got the money that the Koch brothers have, when you got the
money that super PACs can spend maybe the last weekend of this election and
just blow us out, blow the country out in terms of time, does truth matter?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, truth matters to Democrats and it matters to
President Obama.

MATTHEWS: But to the voter, if they`re only going to get blasted with
this stuff?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What matters is that for us, we know that
President Obama is going to get outspent.

We know that they have super PAC corporate-infused special interest
billionaires who are going to try the buy the White House. That`s why we
have systematically and steadily been running and setting up the most
significant grassroots presidential campaign in history, and we will carry
President Obama back to the White House on the shoulders of the people of
this country.

MATTHEWS: Will the American people in the middle, the 6 percent that
have to make up their minds on this election, will they know that that
plant closed under Bush, not under Obama? Will they know he walked away
from the debt commission before he trashed the president for doing the same
thing? Will they know these facts?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They`re going to know that and they`re going to
know who has been in the White House fighting for the middle class and
working families and going to bat every single day to make sure we can
create jobs and get this economy turned around.

WALSH: It`s also our job, too, because last night, everybody was
great. Last night, everyone said these are lies, these are inaccuracies,
fact checked, these are not true.

But today, I saw all over cable news a little bit of slippage about,
well, you know, this is the kind of liberty that politicians get to take
and so --

MATTHEWS: I`m not hearing that about "The Nightly News" here at NBC
and our sister organization. The news division is looking at this as a
hard news --


MATTHEWS: I`m not sure there`s going to be that slipperiness about
hard facts.


WALSH: I hope not. I hope not, because we need to keep saying what
it is. They were lies.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Facts matter. The cynical approach the
Republicans are taking that they don`t matter and that they are trying to
basically dupe the voters --


MATTHEWS: I think Mr. Ryan lost about five of his merit badges last


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Congresswoman and Madam
Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz --


MATTHEWS: -- whose name seems to be funny on the lips of Mr.
Huckabee and the fact you`re female. He`s a strange one anyway.

Anyway, from Tampa and our coverage of the Republican National
Convention, we continue here. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.




MATTHEWS: Well, we`re down here right outside the convention hall,
which is a little brisk walk down that alley.

And we see it. That`s down that alley. There it is. And let me go
right now and have some mix of Americans here right now. We`re going to
hear from views.

What did you think of Paul Ryan last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was terrific. I thought he did an
excellent job articulating what this election is all about. That`s really
what you need to hear.

MATTHEWS: I will you speak. That`s your word.

What do you think of Paul Ryan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked really, really good. His facts didn`t
add up, though.

MATTHEWS: Did any one of the facts jump out as you as dishonest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think most of the budget is fairly
dishonest. I`m wondering when the elementary school teachers, the math
teachers around the country are going to start teaching math classes and
saying two plus two don`t equal six.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

And your view?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn`t watch all of him. He was rather
disgusting to me. I had to quick -- quit.

MATTHEWS: I like it.

I want to hear from a Republican. Any Republicans around here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had a great delivery.

MATTHEWS: Had a great delivery, great delivery.

Sir, a Republican. What did you think of Ryan last night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know when the Democrats are going to
define what fair share is since the top 1 percent of income earners pay
36.7 percent of total income in this country.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety-one top bracket, like it used to be in the
old days. We can`t afford anything if we`re not getting revenue.


MATTHEWS: There`s probably room in the middle between 35 and 91, but

Oh, you want to talk. No, you want to talk.



MATTHEWS: What did you think of Paul Ryan last night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he told some very interesting tall

MATTHEWS: OK. Tall tales.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do hope when it comes time for the Democrat
Convention, that we can get more truth coming out.


MATTHEWS: I want to hear -- who likes Romney here? Come forward.
Come on.

What would you like Mr. Romney to show tonight he hasn`t shown so far
in terms of personality, values, whatever, character?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he`s actually shown quite a bit of all
of that and I think it`s really unfair that you guys just are
characterizing him as being just not a normal guy. I think he`s awesome.

MATTHEWS: Awesome. Awesome.

Anybody else want to talk about Romney tonight?

You, sir. Come on up, you young preppie fellow, you. You`re looking
very patriotic.


MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think about Romney? What should he show

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just think what he should do is just show
the American people the kind of person that he is. I have met him. I told
him it was a greatest day of my life. I think that once you actually get
to know him, you can realize that --


MATTHEWS: OK, the greatest day of your life was meeting Romney.

Whew. Another mis -- underprivileged child of America.

Just kidding. Congratulations. Thank you.

We will be right back with more HARDBALL from Tampa.



CNBC "Market Wrap."

A down day for stocks. The Dow slides 107 points. The S&P falls 11.
The Nasdaq is off 32 points. The number of Americans filing for first-time
jobless benefits was flat last week. Economists expected a dip of 4,000.
Consumer spending rose 0.4 percent last month, in line with estimates. It
was the biggest gain in five months. And speaking of spending, most
retailers turned in better-than-expected same-store sales this month.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Mitt Romney`s running for president in 2012, but it seems Republicans
want to turn back the clock for inspiration. Take a look. Look at this,
Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz speaking earlier this week in the 21st
century, actually.


founding fathers who fought and bled for freedom and then crafted the most
miraculous political document ever conceived, our Constitution.


CRUZ: The framers understood that our rights come not from monarchs,
but from God.


CRUZ: And that those rights are secure only when government power is


MATTHEWS: Well, Cruz and other Republicans are looking back actually
to the 18th century and their politicians. Democrats are pushing for more
government action and touting their record of fighting for rights. The
question is, which vision of government will win voters most this November?

Eugene Robinson is a "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC political
analyst. And Sam Stein covers politics for The Huffington Post.

My notion of America, I hate to give this word to my enemies, is a
dialectic. It`s a fight back and forth between the Jim Crow people and the
know-nothings and all the people that never want to change and the people
that always fought for change. And in the end, liberalism has always won,
but it`s taken a long fight and our country`s gotten better.

That`s not what we`re hearing here.

American history is an expansion of the franchise, an expansion of the
population, of the part of the population that`s entitled to the rights
that are guaranteed in those wonderful documents, which enshrine, for
example, slavery, which don`t allow women to vote.

And all that had to be changed. And these were hard-fought victories.

MATTHEWS: Well, how does the -- I don`t want to be sarcastic about
people, because Republicans are regular people out there in the audience
the other night.

When they hear these applause lines about the founding fathers, don`t
the women in the room go, wait a minute, we didn`t get to vote until after
World War I? What was wrong with the God-given rights that weren`t
available to us? God gave us to them -- given to us obviously ideally.
But, in practice, it takes governments to protect them.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I don`t think they make that turn, to
be honest with you.

Well, I think there`s always been this argument, obviously. I worked
on a book for a great author named Howard Fineman where he was talking
about 13 American arguments, and they all trace back to this. This is a
concept of individual vs. state, vs. what government can do, whether
government`s a benefit or a curse.

And it`s obviously -- there`s been progress over time. And you`re
right. They don`t seem to note not just that women didn`t vote or that
there was slavery, but that there wasn`t such things as complex financial
derivatives, and things that government will have to conceive and deal with
didn`t exist in the 18th century.

MATTHEWS: I came down here -- I`m your age, but I didn`t go through
what you went through.

When we drove down here for spring weekends from Holy Cross up in
Massachusetts, we saw the white-only signs all the way down. If someone
like you had come along and wanted your wife or sister to use the bathroom,
they would have said, no, out back in the weeds.

ROBINSON: When we would take a trip to visit -- one of my
grandmothers lived in Michigan. We would leave South Carolina. We would
provision the car as if it were a Conestoga wagon.

We would have, you know, food and any conceivable thing you might
need, because you couldn`t stop. You couldn`t stop at restaurants along
the road.


ROBINSON: You couldn`t stop until you got to a black-owned motel.
You couldn`t stop for the night.


Anyway, meanwhile, on the Democratic side, President Obama told a
Charlottesville audience that he -- he was the candidate for forward
progress, as opposed to his candidate, Mitt Romney.


almost every issue, he wants to go backwards, sometimes all the way to the
last century.

You know, in November, you can say that, in this century, women should
be trusted to make their own health care choices.


OBAMA: You can say that, in this century, we don`t think young
immigrants who were brought here when they were children and understand
themselves as Americans and have pledged allegiance to the flag should
suddenly be deported to countries where they have never been.


OBAMA: You can say we shouldn`t rewrite the Constitution to prevent
gay Americans who love each other from being able to marry the people they


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s pretty fundamental argument. I think he`s joining
the fight here, the president. He seems to be open to this strong
philosophical debate about what America stands for.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: You know, what`s ironic I think is
that he`s accused of trying to turn America into something radically
different than what it`s been. He actually nailed down the concepts he`s
talking about, the policies that he`s proposing, they`re not all that
radical. They`re very straightforward. Some were adopted by Republican
presidents in the past.

MATTHEWS: Share with the Republican Party, not to start an old
kerfuffle again, but he did make the point these are all European ideas. I
kept thinking is the Heritage Foundation a European institution? Is Bob
Dole some sort of European? I mean, all these top Republicans --

STEIN: And you can do this with a number of things. Look back at
how Reagan and Bush -- George H.W. Bush -- talked about immigration reform.
I mean, they were so much more open to the concept of it than anyone in the
Republican Party today.

MATTHEWS: Teddy Roosevelt wanted National Health.

STEIN: Yes, I mean, these are very basic Republican ideas that have
been adopted by Obama.

MATTHEWS: Dick Nixon wanted employer mandate. He wanted an employer
mandate. Not just an employee mandate. He was tough.

STEIN: He regretted that he never took that deal.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about one speech last night -- I thought
that one exception to the Republicans sort of refusal to look at history
and how we`ve gotten better was Condi Rice last night. You and her have
sort of parallel, but different backgrounds.

Let`s take a look. Here`s the former secretary of state last night.


up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the segregated city of the South where her
parents can`t take her to a movie theatre or restaurant, but they have her
absolutely convinced that even if she can`t have a hamburger at the
Woolworth`s lunch counter, she could become the president of the United
States if she wanted, and she becomes the secretary of state.



MATTHEWS: Well, that would have been odd to be secretary of state in
those days, but you couldn`t vote. But things have changed.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Exactly. Look, it was a terrific
speech and Secretary Rice and I do have very parallel backgrounds, born in
the same years, similar families. Of course, she was a friend of one of
the young girls killed in the church bombing, the infamous church bombing
in Birmingham. That is where we differ in that.

No, you couldn`t be president of the United States then. It took a
lot of people fighting. A lot of people fought and died to get us to the
point where you could conceivably be president of the United States or you
could become secretary of state. But at that point, that was not
realistic. And we just should appreciate and remember the -- we should
remember our history. It happened.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think that`s right. I agree. But let me talk

Sam, you cover politics. Who will win a battle in America -- there`s
a divide between those who have seen nostalgia as a political mandate, way
back? It`s better way back then. Back before Pat Buchanan likely to be,
early `50s, way back. Against people who say this country`s getting
better. It`s getting better for women, for black people, for immigrants,
documented or other. It`s getting better for gay people, it`s getting
better because it`s becoming a better, bigger society. Who wins that

STEIN: It`s a complex question because each side can use nostalgia
in their own way. For instance, civil rights, you could have one person
say -- well, much of the achievements were part of the individual
communities coming together and another one saying listen, if the courts
hadn`t have helped out, if government hadn`t helped out with laws, none of
this would have been possible.

So, each has their turned at spinning it. The question is, you know,
where do the facts come in. How do you render history? I think that`s a
tough one.

MATTHEWS: But the civil rights bill was passed by Congress.

STEIN: Yes, I know.

ROBINSON: The historical record says if it weren`t for activist
judges who decided Brown versus Board of Education and presidents like
Dwight Eisenhower and Kennedy and Johnson who used federal authority,
federal executive authority in the states in a way that I`m not quite sure
the Constitution necessarily anticipated, but it was right. It was a right

MATTHEWS: I think Huckabee growing up in Arkansas where Little Rock
High School had to be integrated, it`s not through gun point.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

STEIN: My point is this, is that the Republican Party would say,
we`ll ignore that part and say would it have been possible if not for Rosa

ROBINSON: Right. I think --

MATTHEWS: Are you quibbling? Are you quibbling? You`re saying --
obviously, it`s individuals who litigate, who sue, who go to court and say
I`m the case, OK?

STEIN: It`s how much do you value institutions or whether you value
them over the individual or vice versa.

MATTHEWS: It`s great to have you here, Sam. And thank you, Gene.
We`ve been together about 48 hours straight I think now.

Thank you, Gene. And thank you, Sam.

Up next, Mitt Romney`s not new at being an uncomfortable presidential
candidate, but many in the past. He`s not the first. We`re going to turn
the clock back and have some fun right now. We`re going to look at other -
- you got to see this -- other awkward nominees.

And that`s HARDBALL coming up here, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Mitt Romney has his work cut out for him tonight as he delivers his
most important speech to date. He needs to be more likable and he`s hardly
the first presidential candidate with that problem. Some got over it.

In 1968, eight years after Richard Nixon lost his first race for
president, he won, despite the fact that people didn`t particularly like
him. George H.W. Bush did the same thing in 1988 despite being seen as
elite and distant.

Others couldn`t get over it. Democratic presidential nominee Michael
Dukakis tried and failed.


about ideology. It`s about confidence.


MATTHEWS: It didn`t work.

John Kerry also couldn`t overcome it.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I`m John Kerry and I`m reporting
for duty.


MATTHEWS: Well, with me now is "Politico" editor-in-chief John
Harris and the magazine columnist Joe Klein, who`s with "Time".

Thank you, gentlemen. You`re experts on this. I like your piece.

Let me ask you about Romney. He comes off -- I`ll say it -- as
robotic, wooden, awkward. I said the other day, it looked like he belonged
in the hall of the presidents, one of those statues that`s wheeled out.

Tonight, he`s not going to get wheeled out. He`s going to come out
and wave. He`s going to point to people like old politicians. He`s going
to say something nice to Ann. Tell a couple of jokes about iPods.

Will it work?

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO: We`ll see. We just look at Mitt Romney and
how weak he is at the theatrics of politics, the emotional connections of
politics. Sometimes wonder how on earth did a guy like this get to be a
major presidential nominee. What your list shows is fairly common.

There`s great performers, but there`s also a lot of people who
succeed in politics just because of sheer method.


HARRIS: Al Gore almost won the presidency, won the popular vote,
even though he was, like Mitt Romney, not good at this.

Tonight`s a big occasion. He`s got to bring his best game and show
that on the right occasions, he can connect -- even though he finds it very
difficult and in most settings was not --

MATTHEWS: You`ve written some great stuff about the policies of
personality in fiction and nonfiction. You know the importance of
personality at the edge, at the cutting edge. Can you fake it?

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Well, George H.W. Bush did a good job of it in
1988. You know, the thing about Mitt Romney that has made it hard for me
to watch him is that he has this tick when he`s speaking. He kind of move
like a lawn sprinkler. He starts over here, goes over to here and he goes
over here and then he looks here and back and back and back. Notice it
tonight. He will do that again.

MATTHEWS: A lawn sprinkler. You beat me out again here, Joe.

Anyway, some of Mitt Romney`s attempts to connect with people on the
campaign trail have been cringe-worthy. Let`s take a look at some of his


I`m also unemployed. Corporations are people, my friend.

Morning y`all. I got started right this morning with a biscuit and
some cheesy grits.

Trees are the right height.

No one`s ever asked to see my birth certificate.


MATTHEWS: Trees are the right height. I still think that`s one of
the great ones. He likes Michigan because the trees aren`t too tall or too
short. My personal favorite was when he said, yes, I read that article on
the aircraft. Not using the language we speak in this country.

Your thoughts.

HARRIS: Chris, it`s going to be hard for me -- thanks to Joe -- to
get that lawn sprinkler image out of my head as I watch.

MATTHEWS: Everybody`s going to be looking for that now.

HARRIS: Thanks a lot, Joe. What he has to do is channel something
authentic. It`s not going to work if he invents a personality for the
occasion. He needs to dig deep and explain something about his life story
and explain how that is relevant to the kind of president he would be.

MATTHEWS: Would it work, Joe, if he did something honest? We know
he`s a legacy. There`s nothing wrong with being a legacy if you happen to
be a legacy. His father was a great man, George Romney, build American
Motors out of nothing, into a major auto industry, did it from scratch,
wasn`t born in this country, was born in Mexico.

Can he talk about his dad in terms of being a rock, a father figure
we all would love to have?

KLEIN: You know, the worst thing he can try to do is be someone he`s
not. This guy is a great manager. And the argument he has to make tonight
is a logical argument. He has to argue that Barack Obama has mismanaged
the American economy. And here`s how I will manage it better. I think
it`s as simple as that.

But as for awkward moments, you don`t see all that many in these
speeches. They`re really highly crafted, these acceptance speeches. Where
you see the awkwardness is in the presidential debates.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well this is scripted. I am afraid about -- you
know, you talk about Herbert Walker Bush gave a wonderful speech. Were you
there? I was down there I was teary eyed because -- but Peggy Noonan wrote
that speech. Margaret Noon writes for "Wall Street Journal" now and she
worked for Reagan. She wrote that speech.

HARRIS: Emotional resonance of the speech did come from within
George H.W. Bush. That wasn`t a phony speech. That`s an example of
someone not natural good at this rising to the occasion.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but I think lies in debates, even though they don`t
seem spontaneous like Mondale -- Reagan using him in his debate with
Mondale, I will not use my opponent`s youth and immaturity. That was a
written lie, Joe? We let him got off the hook of being a little too out of

KLEIN: Once again that was in a debate. I mean, Dukakis`s worst
moment wasn`t in that speech. It was in the debate when he was asked about
what would happen if his wife was raped and murdered and he just kind of,
you know, shrugged it off. George H.W. Bush`s moment was when he looked at
his watch.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, John Harris. And thank you, Joe Klein.
We`ll be right back from Tampa after this.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this -- Monday night at 10:00
p.m. Eastern, MSNBC will air my hour-long documentary "Barack Obama: Making
History." It conveys what I think is vital, important, and, yes, historic
in this American presidency. As someone who grew up in this country,
watched its politics, loved its democracy, I wanted to talk about the
significance of us electing our first African-American president.

I believe that racial division has been this country`s great scourge.
It won`t go away, but it can be narrowed. It can be. I know that because
we acted to narrow it four years ago.

In the privacy of the voting booth, white Americans did what they
thought was right for their country. They went where this country had in
the words of "Star Trek" never gone before. And it resounded throughout
the world. I know as you do that racial division is the San Andres fault
of this country. People who danced on it and exploit, enjoy it, risk
widening that divide, opening it back up to where it was so recently.

Nothing is simpler. Nothing is more primitive than to beat the drums
of tribal grievance, stir up resentment. That someone`s grabbing something
from the other side. Someone`s threatening the other side. Someone`s
cheating on the peace treaty we`ve been working on for all these decades.

Welfare cheating, food stamp grabbing are all part of the lingo,
along with the old calls for law and order the states rights and all the
rest. Say what you want, the message is familiar, deeply redolent of the
old the demagoguery that stirs up the working white people against the

My favorite picture is this dirty faced white father standing with
his sons along the tracks in New Jersey as Bobby Kennedy`s funeral train
rode by, standing with there with their arms, father and son raised in
patriotic respectful salute. That is the legacy of a great leader, uniting
us with pride and love of this nation which holds so many of God`s good
children. It is a motto we should spend each election trying to match
because it is the only alternative to the old, dirty, shameful the ploys
who every once in awhile show their ugly head.

And that`s HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us. I`ll be right back
in an hour with Rachel Maddow and the rest of my MSNBC colleagues for full
coverage of the Republican National Convention.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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