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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

October 8, 2013

Guest: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Clarence Page, Charlie Cook, John Feehery,
Willie Brown, Adam Nagourney

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The lure of the wacko-birds.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews out in San Francisco on my book tour.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. The wacko-bird caucus is flying over the
Capitol tonight, spreading word that an historic U.S. default that could
come a little over a week from now isn`t going to hurt a bit. No way, they
say. Just go walking over that cliff, and nothing`s going to happen,
nothing at all.

The people Senator John McCain called the "wacko-birds" are now saying we
can all fly. The country won`t fall when we head off the cliff because,
like the wacko-birds, we can soar up there beyond reality.

We can jump off the cliff and still end up high in the air, right up there
with those strange birds that got us running over the cliff in the first
place, like the crazed hawks who talk us into wars all the time, telling us
they won`t last long or they`ll be a cakewalk or -- I love this one --
they`ll pay for themselves. The Rand Paul types are now telling us, Don`t
worry, walk over that cliff. We can fly. We can all fly. We`re a country
of wacko-birds.

You have to ask what`s happened to this country. It`s bad enough having to
face the 40 senators who can regularly shut down a bill. We now have 30
members of the House who can stand out there and shut down the government,
and oh, yes, just for funsies, threaten to destroy this country`s economic
standing in the world.

When is John Boehner going to lead his party and tell the little right-
wingers out there to go fly a kite? When is the president going to declare
a deadline, the day and the hour when he needs a debt ceiling bill on the
table if this country`s going to avoid the cliff that now looms before us
October 17th, just nine days from now?

Senator Sherrod Brown is an Ohio Democrat. Senator, what do you make of
your colleagues, like Rand Paul -- maybe you don`t want to get personal,
but they`re out there saying, Don`t worry, we`re going to walk off that
cliff like a cartoon character and just keep walking because nothing`s
going to happen to us?

A, why are they saying it? B, what`s the danger of them saying it now?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, why they`re saying it is it`s a
political party, or at least a dominant factor, faction of a political
party now that doesn`t believe in climate change, doesn`t believe the
president`s born in this country, doesn`t believe in the promise of stem
cell research. And now they`re denying that -- that going -- that not
paying our bills, not doing the right thing as a nation is not a bad thing.
I mean, they are so -- they are so wrong on this.

I`ve spent the last two or three days just calling business people in Ohio,
most of them Republicans. I don`t know their party in every case, but kind
of across the spectrum, but a lot of bankers, a lot of business leaders, a
lot of hospital administrators, you know, What does all this mean to you?
And they`re increasingly scared because they are increasingly believing
that the people you referred to in your bird metaphor aptly are taking this
country somewhere where we shouldn`t be going.

And they -- they know what that means internationally. John Glenn the
other day told me that this is a travesty internationally, what it could
mean for the strength of the dollar, for our reputation, for international

It means student loans -- people will pay more for their student loans.
People won`t get the small business loans they need, or there`ll be much
higher interest rates. And clearly, it`s a disaster for the economy.

The worst thing -- the worst thing, Chris, is it`s so unnecessary.


BROWN: They could just pass this and move on. And then let`s debate
immigration and jobs and budget deficits and all that.

MATTHEWS: You know, it was John Kennedy who said The problems of man are
manmade. What a classic example this is.


MATTHEWS: Take a look at this, Senator. There`s a scary group of
Republicans I`ve mentioned by name. They`re the wacko-birds. They say
that a government default is not something to worry about. Even more
frightening, there are more of them every day.

At present, there are at least 10 Republicans who would willingly lead us
to economic catastrophe. They are, in this order, Representative Justin
Amash of Michigan, Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina,
Representative Joe Barton of Texas -- he ought to know better, he`s been
around -- Representative David Schweikert of Arizona, of course, Steve
King`s a member of the, he`s from Iowa and he`s a wacko-bird,
Representative Ted Yoho from Florida -- boy, he`s got the perfect name --
Senator Mike Crapo from Idaho and Senator Tom Coburn -- I can`t believe
he`s on the list -- from Oklahoma -- he`s smart -- Pat Toomey of
Pennsylvania -- he`s Club -- he`s Club for Growth. You`d think they would
know better.

They`ve been led, of course, by Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, who
appeared on "MEET THE PRESS" this past Sunday.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think it`s irresponsible of the president
and his men to even talk about default. There`s no reason for us to
default. This is a game. This is kind of like closing the World War II
memorial. They all get out on TV and they say, Oh, we`re going to default.
They`re the ones scaring the marketplace.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: But sir, even if --

PAUL: You shouldn`t scare the marketplace. We should never default.

GUTHRIE: Let`s say your plan works and --

PAUL: There`s no reason to have a default.


MATTHEWS: Well, this group`s peddling, these wacko-birds, a fantasy that
default won`t happen, or if it does, it won`t cause any damage. And by the
way, for the record, that view has been rejected by nearly every respected
expert and economist in the United States and in the world.

Just look at the headlines from the past 24 hours. "New York Times" --
"Default threat generates fear around the globe." "Wall Street Journal" --
real left-wing newspaper there -- "Top bankers warn of U.S. debt proposal."
And in the Bloomberg News -- "U.S. default seen as catastrophic, dwarfing"
-- it has to be dwarfing the Lehman fall.

Senator, let me go back to this. Do these people -- I mean, you have to
read their minds, to the extent they have them these days. Do they think
that when we go down the toilet, they won`t be gurgling like everybody
else? Why do they think it`s not going to hurt them? If we do go into
default, it`s a disaster, and they`ve got their fingerprints all over it.

What politically are they up to?

BROWN: It`s hard to -- it`s hard to get in their minds and understand. I
mean, they have this view of the world. They want a world without
Medicare, without Social Security, without an EPA, without OSHA, without
all the things that, frankly, have helped create a middle class and sustain
it and helped to create prosperity and wealth.

But dissect it for a second, kind of try to imagine what they`re looking
at. They think we just pay the interest on the debt. So that means pay
the -- pay Wall Street, pay the Chinese, the investors, the bondholders.

But then what about Medicare beneficiaries? What about Meals on Wheels?
What about Head Start? What about veterans benefits? I mean, they just
want to pay off the interest on the credit card as a consumer might do for
a while --

MATTHEWS: But that`ll only buy them a couple days. What I don`t get is
the strategy. I`ve heard that Ted Cruz and the Republican caucus has no --
but what`s the strategy to play for a couple days, they can squeak by
saying, Oh, we`ll just pay the debtors, we`ll just pay the people we owe
money to. And we`re not going to pay the old people? How many days can we
hold them off?

BROWN: Yes, that`s right. I -- that`s why it`s -- when you try to
deconstruct it and look at what they`re doing, when you take it two days, a
week, two weeks out, it`s hard to believe that this works politically.
It`s a disaster for the country.

And politically, it doesn`t work for them unless -- you know, they`re so
blinded by their hatred or dislike of the president of the United States
that maybe they just think that President Obama will be blamed for it
because -- I mean, these are people that they go home, they go to the
country club, they get on talk radio, they go to their town halls, which
are pretty much ginned up to be full of people like themselves.

And I don`t know what they hear. I don`t think they hear from a guy out of
work. I don`t think they think of a woman struggling with two kids that
has a $10-an-hour job and getting food stamps. I mean, I don`t think they
know people like that.

They need -- if you saw the Lincoln movie -- I`m sure you did, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Yes, I saw it.

BROWN: They need what Lincoln said, I need my public opinion bath. They
may need a public opinion bath in a couple of ways. But one particularly
is to listen to what people are saying. And nobody that really thinks this
through thinks this is a good idea.

MATTHEWS: We`d be better off with scarecrows than these guys. Anyway,
thank you, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

BROWN: Thanks, Chris. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: By the way, President Obama took direct aim at these default
deniers or wacko-birds, I call them, today, as John McCain calls them.

Let`s listen to the president of the United States.


There`s no magic wand that allows us to wish away the chaos that could
result if, for the first time in our history, we don`t pay our bills on
time. And when I hear people trying to downplay the consequences of that,
I think that`s really irresponsible.

It`s particularly funny coming from Republicans, who claim to be champions
of business. There`s no business person out here who thinks this wouldn`t
be a big deal, not one.


MATTHEWS: David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones"
magazine and MSNBC political analyst.

David, buddy, I am stunned here because I don`t know what you`d do if you
put these guys under sodium pentothol, put them into a lie detector, would
it just be a flat line? Have they talked themselves into believing this?
Or is it just politics, where they`ll say, We`re not going to give the
president the facts on the table. We won`t even give him there`s a
deadline. We want to be able to push this and push this and push this
until we get what we want.

And if the country goes down, the economy goes down, the world comes apart,
Hey, we get an extra inch of flesh off this guy.

living within an alternative reality. I do think it`s not that they -- I
think they kind of believe this, in the sense that they came to Washington
to blow things up. If it`s either the government, or you know, the
financial system, they just don`t like it. They want to disrupt.

And you know, I kind of see them as Ayn Rand libertarians who want to
plunge the detonator and see what happens afterwards --

MATTHEWS: You mean "Atlas Shrugged."

CORN: -- because they don`t like -- they don`t like the established
order, and they are going to -- and they`re -- they have people back home,
they have people on Web sites, social media sites, talk radio, who keep
egging them on, saying, Listen, you can`t blink. You got to stare down
Obama and everybody else. And if it comes to the brink, you`ve got to be
willing to go over the cliff with this. And they really believe it.

And I think they`re trying to justify, you know, the possible anarchy they
could bring about by saying, I don`t think it will be that bad.

MATTHEWS: Is this troglodyte or weird thinking, like -- it`s almost like
"Planet of the Apes." When you see a million years of bones on the earth
and the Leakeys and everybody else dig them up, all the way back to Lucy,
and they find there`s all this hard evidence of human life going pretty far
back, in millions of years -- Oh, it`s only 5,000 years because the literal
word of the Bible says that. Or they see the water level going up around
this planet -- I`m sorry, this continent -- Miami going under water at some

At what point are they going to say, I guess we were wrong?

CORN: I don`t think at any point, Chris. I don`t think they are -- I
think they`re impermeable to science and facts, economic analysis --

MATTHEWS: Well, then it is "The Planet of the Apes."

CORN: -- you know, that -- that -- that contradicts what --

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s look at that -- let`s talk about --

CORN: -- they want to believe.

MATTHEWS: Well, speaking about alternative reality, David, some
Republicans on the hardest right, in the Tea Party, are making the claim
that defaulting on our debts would have zero, as they say, consequence.

Take a look at this bizarre logic from Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, who
spoke with CNBC`s Andrew Ross Sorkin early today, basically comparing a
government default to his household budget.


REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: We have in my household budget some bills that
have to be paid and some bills that we can defer or pay partially. We are
not going default on the public debt, but that doesn`t mean that we have to
pay every bill the day it comes in 100 percent.

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, CNBC: You think Jack Lew was lying when he says that
he can`t prioritize?

BARTON: I`m not going to say anybody is lying. I`m saying he`s playing
politics when he says that.


CORN: You know, Chris --

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that, David, because --

CORN: Listen, Chris --

MATTHEWS: -- Barton`s been around a long time. Here`s a guy I don`t
believe is a doofus.

CORN: He`s a climate denier, too. Listen, this is know-nothingism. The
U.S. government has to pay $1 billion to $2 billion worth of bills each
day. They have a million different transactions. They can`t go through
these in part because there`s a government shutdown, they don`t have the
people who could do this, which makes this even more absurd.

But they can`t go through picking and choosing which bills to pay and not
pay. The system doesn`t operate --

MATTHEWS: But this -- but this malarkey --

CORN: -- that way. And anyone who says it does is just --

MATTHEWS: But give me the politics --

CORN: -- doesn`t understand it.

MATTHEWS: -- of it. Give me the reason why -- it only buys them a
couple days. Sooner or later, we can`t pay Social Security checks. Sooner
or later, we can pay veterans, disabled -- disability. Certainly, we got
to cut something close to their home towns, and they`re going to get hurt.

So they save a few days in this argument. What are they going to do with
those two days? It`s the 19th of October, the 21st of October. What are
they going to do in those days that`s good for them? That`s what I don`t

CORN: Either because they hate Obama so much or they hate, you know, the
current political and economic system so much they are willing to see what
would happen if you blow it up. They want to shrink government. They want
to destroy government. And they don`t want any niceties to get in the way,
such as the prospect of economic calamity. And so they --


MATTHEWS: -- I don`t have a good argument against what you just said.
Thanks for joining us, David Corn.

CORN: Sure thing.

MATTHEWS: Coming up: Why President Obama is right to fight this fight
right now and break this Republican fever. If he gives in an inch,
Republicans will manufacture one crisis after another and bury his entire
second term. They`ll take a little toe off health care, then they`ll take
the leg off, then they`ll take the lower half of the body. They`re not
going to quit, Mr. President, if you let them have an inch.

Anyway, also, the smart money`s been saying that the Republicans would have
to self-destruct in order to lose the House next year. And now Charlie
Cook, who knows all, says they`re flirting with that very possibility.

Plus, out here in California, they have a Democratic senate out there, a
Democratic assembly, a Democratic governor, and supermajorities in both
houses, and as I said, Jerry Brown as governor. And guess what? They`ve
turned the state around completely -- fiscally sound, organized, together.
They don`t have debt fights. They`re together. What are the Democrats
doing so well out here?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with a story of how political grown-ups
once dealt with the debt ceiling.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Here`s a big reason the current government shutdown is a lot
different and could last longer than the last shutdown of `95 and `96.
During the last shutdown, more than 33 percent of House Republicans
represented congressional districts that Bill Clinton carried in the
previous election. Well, today just 7 percent of House Republicans
represent districts that President Obama won last time. That means there
are fewer potential crossover votes and a lot less incentive for
Republicans to work with the White House. And that means a more polarized,
a more paralyzed U.S. Congress.

We`ll be right back.



OBAMA: And if reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things
again, I`m ready to head up to the Hill and try. But I`m not going to do
it until the more extreme parts of the Republican Party stop forcing John
Boehner to issue threats about our economy. We can`t make extortion
routine as part of our democracy. Democracy doesn`t function this way.

And this is not just for me, it`s also for my successors in office.
Whatever party they`re from, they shouldn`t have to pay a ransom, either,
for Congress doing its basic job.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama this
afternoon again saying he would only negotiate with Republicans after they
reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

John Boehner responded later today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Under the Constitution and
our system of government, we asked that they sit down and have a
conversation with us about funding the government, keeping it open, and
providing fairness to the American people under "Obama care." They refused
to do it.

The president`s position that, Listen, we`re not going to sit down and talk
to you until you surrender, is just not sustainable. It`s not our system
of government.


MATTHEWS: Well, the Republicans have tried to deflect blame for the
government shutdown and potential default by blaming the president for not
negotiating. They`ve painted his position as hard-line and stubborn. But
for the White House, this is about more than just getting through the
current fiscal crisis. It`s about breaking the fever, as the president
says, of the Tea Party before it destroys his second term agenda.

According to "The Washington" -- "The Wall Street Journal," actually,
"Journal`s" Gerald Seib (ph), he wrote, quote, "The White House believes
these crises give outsize power to a minority of conservative House
Republicans who don`t have the strength to push their own agenda into the
law but can in a crisis stop the action. More important, Democrats are
convinced they must break the cycle now or see much of the Obama second
term agenda sink away."

Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for Salon and an MSNBC political analyst, and
Clarence Page is a columnist for "The Chicago Tribune."

Clarence, I wanted to ask you about this. The president is using, I think,
the right words. He talks about extortion, really strong language about
even criminality. And he`s doing it very calmly.

Does he have to behave like that? Why doesn`t he show a little outrage at
this criminality he`s accusing them of? Because they really are kidnapping
the U.S. government. It`s only about 30 people on the wacko right. Why
doesn`t he just go at these people?

CLARENCE PAGE, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, as much as we`d love to see
President Obama blow up the way Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity might do --



PAGE: -- or you, for that matter -- you know, he -- he`s trying to show,
illustrate by his expression that the Democrats are the compromise party,
the conservatives are the orthodox people, the "principle people," quote,
unquote. They don`t like compromise.

Let`s face it, this whole shutdown started because the -- after the
Democrats in the Senate had approved a budget that was a good, what, $20
billion or more less than what they initially wanted.


PAGE: And the Republicans wouldn`t accept that because they wanted to
defund Obamacare once again.

And that`s where we are now. President Obama is finally realizing, I
think, as well as other Democrats, that they have got to be hard-liners
too. Otherwise, Republicans are going to just keep chipping away and
chipping away.

MATTHEWS: You know, I watched Colbert last night, Joan, and he said the
first proposal for compromise from the Republicans was, you lose to Mitt
Romney. That was their proposal.


MATTHEWS: How`s that for an offer? You didn`t take our first offer?
What`s the matter with you?


Look, I agree with Clarence. I thought the president was terrific today.
We have got a situation where, Chris, actually, we all pay attention to
presidential elections for like two years before they happen and then the
public tunes in two weeks before. And they miss a lot of stuff and then
they`re really paying attention.

The American public is tuning in really intensely right now. This isn`t
about Obamacare anymore. What happened to Obamacare, all those demands?
No, this is about bringing down the global economy. And the president,
that was blowing up for Barack Obama. That was calling the Republicans out
for Barack Obama. He was tougher than I have seen him most times.

MATTHEWS: What do the bad guys want? And I don`t mean Republicans
generally or Boehner even. What do the bad guys on the hard right, the
rejectionists -- do they want to erase his presidency? That`s my thinking.


MATTHEWS: They want an asterisk next to it like Barry Bonds out here. Oh,
he didn`t really hit all those home runs. He wasn`t really president.
There was some problem with his birth certificate. And, by the way, none
of those bills really became law because he wasn`t really president,
including health care.

WALSH: Right.

Look, I think some of them -- I actually think some of them are stupid and
they don`t understand how the global economy works. I think that`s
absolutely true. I think some of them believe that we can pay some of our
bills and not others. They`re idiots. Others really don`t care.

MATTHEWS: By the way, who`s this congressman who doesn`t pay half his



MATTHEWS: He comes on television. If I was one of the people that was
paying, how about his water bill, his gas bill, whatever they have down in
Texas, I would be thinking, well, who is he screwing this month?

WALSH: Who is he stiffing this month? Yes, exactly. Well, I don`t know.

So, some of them are dumb and others really do want to destroy this
president. And they -- but there is a problem. They do think he`s going
to blink. There`s a large -- even John McCain, who`s been pretty wonderful
throughout this, John McCain said today he`s not sure if he`s going to sign
onto Harry Reid`s clean one-year debt ceiling extension because he wants to
see the dynamics.


WALSH: And all that means is he wants to see the dynamics whether there`s
any give on the White House side. And that`s why there can`t be.

MATTHEWS: Well, and, Clarence, first of all, let`s look at more of the --
more of the president`s news conference late today. He talked about the
need to stop this kind of brinkmanship by the Republicans. Let`s watch.


And I know the American people are tired of it. And to all the American
people, I apologize that you have to go through this stuff every three
months, it seems like.

But at some point, we have got to kind of break these habits and get back
to the point where everybody understands that, in negotiations, there is
give and there is take. And you do not hold people hostage or engage in
ransom-taking to get 100 percent of your way. And you don`t -- you don`t
suggest that somehow a health care bill that you don`t agree with is
destroying the republic or is a grand socialist scheme.


MATTHEWS: Clarence, I can just hear Sean Hannity say, I just got him. He
just apologized. He admits it`s his fault.


MATTHEWS: Obama admits shutdown his fault. He just apologized. I can
hear the cheerleaders for the wacko birds already enjoying that line.

What is the president afraid of here? Does he see an opportunity? Is this
the galloping horse of history, as I call it, where there`s an opportunity
here for him to really pull, like Reagan pulled -- and you may not like it,
but he pulled it with the PATCO strike. I`m the fricking boss. You got
it? You made a mistake challenging me.

Is that one of these moments? Or is he just trying to get through the

PAGE: Well, President Obama`s hastily called press conference, as we call
it, was really important for showing that he has got the bully pulpit and
Republicans can say all they want to that Democrats are causing the
shutdown, causing the deficit -- this whole default crisis, but the polling
shows the American people are punishing the Republicans more.

And even conservatives in the "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows that they --
over half believe that the Republicans are going too far with this. And
that`s the kind of thing that indicates that President Obama has an upper
hand, and he`s using it now.

MATTHEWS: I think so too. I think he does have the upper hand for a few
days. But, at some point, I don`t know which way the wind`s going to turn
when we get close to the debt ceiling.

Anyway, thank you, Clarence Page, as always.

Joan Walsh, thank you very much, both of you.

PAGE: Thank you.


MATTHEWS: Up next, Steve Colbert takes political gamesmanship to an absurd
level. That guy`s really funny. And that`s next in the "Sideshow."

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This isn`t some damn game.




COLBERT: This isn`t some damn game. It`s this damn game.

Introducing "Not a Game."


COLBERT: The official government shutdown home game.


COLBERT: From the makers of "Not Sorry" and "Operation Denied Due to
Preexisting Condition."


COLBERT: I mean, for Pete`s sake, what insurance company would cover a guy
with a lightbulb for a nose?



MATTHEWS: Time for the "Sideshow."

That was Steve Colbert last night on the gamesmanship taking place in
Washington. Unfortunately, some Republicans on Capitol Hill think the
shutdown battle is more like "Trivial Pursuit" and less like the game of
"Risk" that it really is, which is why most Americans believe they don`t
have a clue.

Next, some over-eager journalists at FOX News clearly forgot to verify part
of Reagan`s adage, trust but verify. A host on the network`s morning show
was fooled by a fictional story posted on a satirical news Web site over
the weekend. Here`s how Jimmy Kimmel told that story last night.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": FOX News experienced a little
snafu over the weekend. On the Saturday edition of "FOX & Friends," the
hosts were talking about the government shutdown, and a World War II
memorial in Washington, D.C., that closed.

And pay attention to co-host Anna Kooiman, who reported a fake story that
came from a comedy news Web site as if it was fact.

ANNA KOOIMAN, FOX NEWS: We`re going to talk a bit little later in the
show, too, about, you know, some things that are continuing to be funded.
And President Obama has offered to pay out of his own pocket for the Museum
of Muslim Culture out of his own pocket, yet it`s the Republican National
Committee who`s paying for this.

KIMMEL: Now, obviously, President Obama did not offer to pay to fund the
Museum of Muslim Culture himself.


KIMMEL: It was a joke. But it got them so excited, they couldn`t help
themselves. They had to report it.

The other story on that Web site, by the way, was "Jesus Christ Boycotts
Hobby Lobby."


MATTHEWS: And you could say that "The Tonight Show"`s Jay Leno added his
own spin to the story.


thing FOX News got wrong. Look what they ran today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a breaking news alert. There has been an
accident in outer space.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An astronaut has apparently become separated from the
space station.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All we know now is that she looks a lot like Sandra



MATTHEWS: By the way, FOX plans to make an on-air correction next weekend
on the same show that made the error in the first place.

But, today, the real Museum of Muslim Cultures reported that they were not
contacted by FOX in advance of the story, and they gave this response to
clarify their situation. Quote: "We were surprised to be given this
national stage by a fictitious news site. But we`re an independent
nonprofit institution. We`re not federally funded and have not received
any money from President Barack Obama, but would love to be considered."


MATTHEWS: Everybody has their hand out.

Up next: Could this shutdown/debt ceiling crisis possibly cost the
Republicans the House of Representatives?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



Tomorrow, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to take over for Ben
Bernanke as chair of the Federal Reserve. She currently serves as vice
chair. She would be the first woman to lead the Fed; 200 people were
arrested at an immigration rally at the Capitol, including eight Democratic
lawmakers who joined the demonstration.

And 33,000 Boston students were stranded after the city school bus drivers
went on a surprise strike today. The drivers say they`re not happy with
the company that runs the buses -- back to HARDBALL.


NARRATOR: Tom Cotton has chosen to play Washington politics and not tell
the truth.

NARRATOR: It`s not just that he`s running frivolous ads at this critical

NARRATOR: But when Congress was debating whether to shut down the
government, where was Tom?

NARRATOR: Down in Houston raising big bucks from Texas fat cats.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Mark Pryor`s new ad hitting back at his opponent, Tom Cotton. The
fight for 2014 is obviously already heating up, but ever since the 2012
election, just last year, the Republican Party has been on a self-
destructive path, many believe, alienating the many small groups and swing
voters that cost them the election in the first place. They did lose the
election last year.

Nearly a year out from the next national election, the GOP increases their
chances every day of blowing a very winnable opportunity to wrestle back
control of the U.S. Senate. And while it`s still unlikely the Democrats
take back the House, the more the Republicans settle for chaos over
compromise, the more they risk their majority in that chamber as well.

In fact, one political handicapper says the GOP is making a masochistic
effort -- there`s a strange word for us -- to lose power and is flirting
with just that possibility.

That expert, Charlie Cook of "The Cook Political Report," is with us now,
along with Republican strategist John Feehery.

I trust both of you guys to give me the horse sense here and the smarts.

Is there a wind direction right now, Charlie, that will affect elections
coming out of this fight over the debt ceiling and, of course, the

know, these kinds of things, nobody wins. Everybody loses to a certain
extent, but one side always loses more the other.

And every poll you can find shows that Republicans are suffering from an
enormous amount of self-inflicted damage. They`re hurting their brand.
And this is damage that can go for a long time. You know, and I wouldn`t
look at it just so much as the 2014 election. But I would look beyond it
as well, 2016.

For example, you have got 20 up in the Senate in 2016 and only 10
Democrats. And seven of those are in states that Barack Obama carried. So
they`re doing some long-term damage that`s going to hurt them far beyond

MATTHEWS: Let me -- we will stay with you for a minute.

I will get to you, John. I want to follow the thinking here of Charlie,
because I know you`re objective.

Charlie, this thing about Cruz -- now, I don`t think Cruz could ever be
president. He doesn`t seem to have the personality or even the manner of a
presidential candidate. He`s too hot, way too hot for a presidential
candidate. But I think Rand Paul is softening up around the edges. I read
your piece. I think he`s joining the club, if you will, not in a negative
way, but becoming part of the Washington world.

He`s not making enemies. He`s making friends. I think he`s the nominee
next time, the way the wind`s blowing. I think you were saying something
like that in your paper.

COOK: Yes, I wrote a column last week there. I talked -- I said that next
time Rand Paul sees Ted Cruz, he should give him a big kiss because --

MATTHEWS: Wet kiss, you said.

COOK: A wet kiss, yes.

That -- that Cruz is redefining extremism in the Republican Party, and it`s
making Rand Paul look absolutely mainstream. And at the same time, Paul is
working -- he`s shown himself to be a much more pragmatic figure than his
father, than a lot of us expected. He`s working with the leadership. He`s
being a lot more of a team player more than anybody ever expected and I
think showing some smarts.

Like, when you saw him speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a
remarkable speech on immigration, this guy, he`s got a lot more savvy than
I think a lot of us gave him credit for early on.

MATTHEWS: I think so too. I thought his -- I thought his filibuster
worked. I think Cruz`s didn`t.

Anyway, let`s go to John with this question.

Democrats believe they have been given a gift in Ted Cruz. They think he
helps them and are hoping to tie him to all the Republicans and the GOP
brand itself heading into 2014 next year. We`re seeing this already in the
Virginia governor`s race. Look at it. Last weekend, Cruz and Republican
candidate Ken Cuccinelli were speaking at the same event in Richmond.
Democrat Terry McAuliffe welcomed the Texas senator with his radio ad. he
wanted him in there. Here`s Terry.


NARRATOR: Look who`s coming to Virginia this weekend, Ted Cruz, the
Republican senator from Texas who`s the leader of the government shutdown.
Cruz is coming in to campaign for another radical Republican, Ken
Cuccinelli. Let`s reject Cruz`s and Cuccinelli`s extreme approach.


MATTHEWS: And here what`s a DNC, a Democratic National Committee,
spokesman says about Ted Cruz: "Die-hard Republicans will consider him
their best surrogate. And we consider him our best surrogate too.
Wherever he goes now, I think he`s a political liability for all

For the defense, John Feehery.

Is this guy an albatross? Does he darken in a negative way the Republican
brand, this guy, John, Ted Cruz?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I think he`s kind of like the
Republican version of Miley Cyrus. Either you love him or you hate him.

And -- but I don`t think ultimately he`s going to have that much of a
damage to the Republican brand. I think he hurts right now Cuccinelli in
Virginia mostly because there`s so many federal workers in Virginia. But
he`s a rock star when it comes to the Internet and the Twitter world. And
he`s got a big grassroots base.

And I don`t think ultimately, though, unless he continues to attack other
Republicans -- this is the problem with the party right now. There`s too
much Republican-on-Republican violence. And they`re spending too much time
attacking one another, and not nearly enough time going after the president
and going after Democrats. The party`s got to unify.

If the party unifies, they will be in much stronger shape. If they
continue this Republican-on-Republican violence, it could be an ugly year.

MATTHEWS: Here`s a great question that came out of your numbers today,
Charlie. And everybody who watches this show wants to figure out which way
things are going in the country, because they know where they`re going.

And my question is this. Why are there more people who describe themselves
as conservatives than describe themselves as liberals, yet more people
describe themselves as Democrats than describe themselves as Republicans?
That seems like a contradiction. Explain.

COOK: I think the term liberal has been discredited to a certain extent.
And so, when you look at moderates in roughly 40 -- basically 35 percent
calling themselves conservatives, 25 percent liberal, 40 percent moderate.

A lot of those moderates were people that may use to have called themselves
liberals. But that term is not very good anymore. But President Obama,
for example, carried the moderate vote by 15 percentage points last year,
while he lost the independent vote by five. So, clearly, there`s a
difference between moderate and independent.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Charlie, you`re so right. I think we`ve got to figure a
new language. I know progressive source tries to cover some moderate as
well as the old liberal.

But you know what it is? If you say you`re a moderate, you`re probably
pro-choice, I don`t like the phrase, but you`re definitely for abortion
rights. You`re probably OK on same-sex marriage. You probably are pretty
liberal on what -- by the definition of conservatives.

Would you call yourself a moderate? Whereas the conservatives will say
you`re a liberal. You don`t call yourself that, but they would.


COOK: Yes, go ahead.

Well, when I travel around the country, the phrase I hear more from people
than any other single phrase is -- I consider myself a conservative on
economic issues, but dot, dot, dot. They`ll either say moderate on social
culture issues or tolerant on social cultural issues.

But the things is Republicans -- you know, Bill Clinton kind of cracked the
code of being moderate on social issues and culture and not quite that
liberal on economic issues. I think Republicans would be smart to kind of
look at how they can work around this.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Clinton said some wonderful things in `92, like they want
to make abortion safe, legal, and rare, which appealed to progressive
Catholics like me. They want to hear that it`s rare. And also, they said
they`re for people who work hard and play by the rules. They`re not the
welfare party, and they`re not the law-breaking party.

John Feehery, that`s the question for you. Moderates -- does the word
moderates say to you, you could be a Republican? Or does it mean you`re
probably a liberal but you`re calling yourself a moderate?

FEEHERY: Well, let me answer the first question. The point of why there
are more conservatives than Republicans is a lot of conservatives don`t
actually consider themselves Republican. And this is part of the
infighting that I`ve been talking about. The Republican Party has got to
heal itself, and they`ve got to be able to attract moderate conservatives,
or people who are not so doctrinaire on something. And they got to stop
the inner fighting.

A lot of the pro-choice moderates, you got to be able to attract those
folks especially in the Northeast and it`s really focus as Charlie said on
the economic issues. But, you know, we are a pro-life party and will
always be a pro-life party.

MATTHEWS: You know, Feehery, you and I could form a political party, I`ll
tell you, right in the middle somewhere. But I`d be a little left of
center. You`d be a little right of center. I think you`re like
Scarborough, I think, actually.

Charlie Cook, that`s where the action is, next time, Hillary got it locked
over Rand Paul.

COOK: I would watch Paul, but you know I`d also watch the governors. I`d
watch Scott Walker, for example. I think he`s somebody very interesting to

But the question to me about Hillary is, is that a political decision or
personal decision. If it`s political, she runs. If it`s a personal
decision, who knows?

MATTHEWS: Can she resist the women her age and my age? I`m a little older
than her, can she resist the tremendous historic push that she`s getting
from women who really think it`s their time to have a woman president.
That powerful historic urge right now, I think, it`s out there.

COOK: I think -- no, I think it`s very, very real. But at the same time,
she`ll be turning 69 years old. She will be the same age that Ronald
Reagan was when he got elected president.


COOK: And, you know, she doesn`t look 69 or 67 at this point, but, you
know, it is what it is. Does she feel up to it or not? I think it`s a
personal decision.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you know that 40s is the new 10? Come on, Charlie.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Charlie Cook. Thank you, John Feehery, the
young men.

Up next, what happens when Democrats have the power? Look what`s happening
out here in California. They`re in total control politically and have
turned this state around and up.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Three big elections coming up in the next few weeks. We`ve got
new polling on all three.

Let`s check the HARDBALL scoreboard.

In Virginia, new poll from Roanoke College shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe
holding to his lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the state`s
governor`s race. It`s McAuliffe, 41, Cuccinelli, 36. Pretty close. The
libertarian in the race has 9.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie is up big in his bid for reelection.
According to a new Farleigh Dickinson poll, it`s Christie, 58, Democrat
Barbara Buono, 25. They`ll meet for their first debate tonight.

And in the Senate race in New Jersey, Democrat Cory Booker has a 16-point
lead over Republican Steve Lonegan. It`s Booker, 45, still less than 50,
Lonegan, 29. That election is one week from tomorrow.

We`ll be right back.



BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Conservatives who love to brag about American
exceptionalism must come here to California and see it in person. And
then, they should be afraid, because while right wingers are taking over
places like North Carolina and Texas and even Wisconsin, California is
creating the kind of modern liberal nation the country as a whole could
only dream about. And only can`t the rest of the country stop us, we`re
going to drag you with us.


MATTHEWS: I think that guy Bill Maher has the sharpest mind around

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I`m out here in California for my book tour. And the Golden State is
unquestionably on a roll led by Democratic Governor, yes, Jerry Brown, and
Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature. No
obstruction out here.

These headlines tell the story of California. "California faces a new
quandary. Too much money", "Governor Jerry Brown credited with turning
California around, changing national conversation", and "California come
back, Jerry Brown leads a turnaround."

And Ronald Reagan biographer Lou Cannon puts it this way, for the first
time in the 21st century, California`s thriving with an improving housing
market, reduced unemployment and increased funding for its hard-pressed
schools. California once more resembles a Golden State.

California is back and maybe it`s time for Democrats to do a little

Willie Brown is the former mayor of San Francisco, and Adam Nagourney is
the national political correspondent with "The New York Times."

Mayor Brown, thank you again. By the way, I`ll thank you in a written
letter on my personal stationary, because you deserved a lot more than that
for that wonderful party. Boy, do people like you out here in San

Anyway, talk about that other Brown, former mayor of Oakland, former
governor of California a hundred years ago. Jerry Brown is now the kid.
But look, he`s back and look what`s going on, this state`s working.

What`s working out here so well?

California is a state now that has said, you can`t draw your own lines if
you`re a politician or you don`t need to be obedient to any particular
philosophy or party. You better be interested in the needs of people. And
that has produced the result that you see.

MATTHEWS: And why did it work when he asked to raise revenues for
education and all? Why did that seem to work in a state that was for all
those years tied down by Prop 13 and refused to do anything on property tax
or anything else?

BROWN: Well, we had a serious problem over here and there was a recall in
2003. Since that recall, things have been topsy-turvy in the state of
California. And schools have suffered, children have suffered, old people
have suffered, the prison systems have suffered, and that suffering has
boiled over to the point where people have said no more. We are going to
change the nature of how we do business.

And believe me, the voters said, we will pay more under Jerry Brown`s
leadership, and that represented the opportunity for the great divide and
the great operation that has occurred.

MATTHEWS: That`s so interesting, Adam, because the things I have known
about the California political landscape has been you try the amateur, a
good amateur, but an amateur, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that didn`t work so
well. And I have also heard for years the prisoners and the corrections
officers haven`t been able to do anything about it.

How has Jerry Brown been able to break loose, or has he broken loose from
those Chinese handcuffs that have held California`s governor over the

ADAM NAGOURNEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think he has broken loose to a large
extent. Not completely, as you say, the sort of, you know, restrictions
here are pretty intense. The fact that he`s been governor I think is
really important. He has experience. The fact that he`s coming towards
the end of his career, the last time he was governor here back in the `70s,
he was looking to Washington, he was out of the state a lot.

And not to get of sort of psychological about it, remember his father was
governor, and I think he`s looking at this term as a way to really kind of
do a lot of legacy stuff that his father did that Brown did not do so much
on his first term. So, cleaning up the fiscal house, that`s the first
thing. He talks about getting rid of the wall of debt. He wants to deal
with the state`s water problems.

And he`s very, very sort of directed and mature and he works very, very
well with the legislature.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mayor Brown. I have heard one of the reasons for
the success of California`s progressive politics in the post-World War era
was stuff for everybody.

They`d be a college education, maybe a community college, maybe something
great like UCLA or Berkeley for everybody. They`d be highways for
everybody. There`d be open beaches for everybody.

That it wasn`t a dedicated liberalism. There was a wide open liberalism
for everybody, therefore like Social Security, everybody invested in it.

What is the -- what is the formula now for people liking this kind of

BROWN: Well, we have finally been able to put it together so that, in
fact, it`s available to people. You know, we went through the turmoil out
here on the immigration issue, during the time that Pete Wilson was the
governor of the state of California. There was an initiative state wide to
deal with that issue in an adverse way.

But yet, people still came into California and they`re now participating in
the political process. In the state of California, the voters are
literally demanding results. They don`t want partisanship, they don`t want
the phony commitment to so-called philosophy, they really want to see
things function and things work.

And Jerry Brown, attorney general, previous governor, secretary of state,
mayor of Oakland, presents the opportunity to do all of that.

Our only problem, frankly, is the term limits. If we would get rid of term
limits, and we have modified it somewhat, we`ll be on the road to many
years of prosperity.


But you never would have gotten to be mayor of San Francisco, you`d still
be speaker of the assembly.

Mr. Brown, thank you for joining us, you have so many titles.

Adam, more time next time. Thanks for coming on. We`ll be right back
after this.


MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I`ve got a story to tell you. Back in 1981, when Ronald Reagan came to
town, guess what? He needed to raise the debt ceiling. That`s right, the
same debt ceiling that his party, the Republicans, had been voting to the
last member against. Not a single Republican member in the House voted to
raise the debt ceiling leaving it to the Democrats to do it themselves and
getting brick bats thrown at them for doing it.

So, now, Reagan, the new president, had to raise the debt limit himself.
So, he sent his guy over to see the Democratic speaker and asked for some
Democrats to help get it over the top. Tip O`Neill not wanting to rain on
the new president`s parade had one condition -- he wanted a letter from
Ronald Reagan himself to every Democratic member of Congress to vote for
the death ceiling. That`s all, just a letter.

He was OK with helping Reagan do what needed doing. He just didn`t want
the Democrats blasted in the next election for doing it. The letters
arrived, Reagan got his vote.

John Boehner, are you listening? Are you paying attention to history?
It`s time to mount the galloping horse of history and lead your party out
of this dead-end canyon that history will blame you for and history will
not soon forget.

Tonight in San Francisco, I`ll be speaking about all this and other stories
for my book, "Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked". I`ll be at the
World Affairs Council. Tomorrow night, the Ronald Reagan Presidential
Library. Thursday, Jay Leno. Friday, Bill Maher.

I`m hitting the coast where the weather is warm and beautiful.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" stars right now.



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