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updated 8/4/2009 11:11:17 AM ET 2009-08-04T15:11:17

HARDBALL

August 3, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Sen. Bob Corker, Joe Conason, Michael

Smerconish, Jonathan Martin, Joe Conason, Ray LaHood

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Crazy August.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:

Summer in the city. Temperatures are rising in this country as town hall meetings on health care are turning into mob scenes. Noisy, angry, vengeful crowds are shouting down members of Congress who are trying to talk up President Obama's health care push.

Catch this joyful scene surrounding Democrat Lloyd Doggett down in Texas when he called a town meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Congressman Doggett joins us in a minute. By the way, the message there was (INAUDIBLE) fairly clear, just say no to the Obama health care plan.

Also, we've been hearing so much crazy talk from the right recently, from the no-nothing "birthers," who want to claim the president is a native-born Kenyan, to claims that the government wants to kill old people or at least talk them into killing themselves. But is it just possible-in fact, really possible-really possible that stirring up the far-outs on the far right will also gin up the conservative base and get things perking for the Republican Party come next November with the mid-term elections?

Plus, what about this government program that gives you up to $4,500 towards a new car if you trade in your low-mileage clunker? Well, it ran out of money while the Congress was on vacation, at least the House is on vacation. Will the Senate go on vacation without extending the program in time? And if so, will they extend it long enough and with enough money that they won't be caught on vacation when auto dealers are trying to sell cars? Transportation secretary Ray LaHood is coming here directly today to defend the program.

Plus, it's excitement eve in the Keystone state. Democracy, it appears, is heading back to where it all began. By that I mean the Democratic voters of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a whole will have a choice in next year's Senate primary because U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak is bravely going to come out of the gate and make a very big statement tomorrow morning-a very big statement-that Arlen Specter is going to have a rival for the nomination of the party he just joined. That's in the "Politics Fix" tonight.

And guess how to get into Harvard? Well, you could have your father arrest one of its professors. I'm serious. That's in the HARDBALL "Sideshow" tonight.

But first, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas, who was shouted down at his own town hall meeting in Austin, Texas. Austin is apparently, from what I've always been told, the most sophisticated political town in Texas, sir. Why the zaniness over the weekend at your town hall meeting? Let's, by the way, look at the pictures while you speak of what was going on there.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D), TEXAS: Well, Chris, what better slogan for the party of no, no way, never, than "Just say no"? One of the reasons is because many of these people were summoned in by the local Republican and Libertarian parties. They didn't even live in the neighborhood. They were there not just to be heard but to ensure other people weren't heard on this. A real desperation tactic.

MATTHEWS: What are they up to? Why do they want to shut down any talk of reform in health care?

DOGGETT: I think these folks are really desperate to stop health reform. They see that for the first time in 60 years, we really have, with President Obama and a Democratic Congress, a chance to enact meaningful reform and deal with these policies of health insurance giants that hurt small business, that deny choice to so many people, and deny them coverage at a time they need it the most.

So "Just say no," a mob scene, is just one way of trying to intimidate members into weakening their position. In my case, it really just reaffirmed my resolve to go back and get a strong public plan, force more competition, provide more choice to people, get the reform I know my constituents want.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's go through some of their attacks. One of them lately is this cultural front, where they're saying that the new reform bill coming out of Energy and Commerce in the House would be a requirement that health practitioners come to older people and tell them, Well, you better make plans now for living wills, et cetera, you're going to die some day and you're going to be in bad health, so you better make some decisions now. Is that the case? Is that in the bill?

DOGGETT: Yes, that was one of the cries of this Republican mob Saturday that also was nice enough to have a beautiful marble picture-a beautiful picture of a marble tombstone with my name on it. But they did express this concern about euthanasia. That's a real slur about this bill.

I worked with my colleagues on that section of the bill. All that it does is to provide that a physician under Medicare can be paid for talking with a senior who wants to talk with the physician. If they want to express the desire to be tied to a machine indefinitely, or as in my case, they want to sign a living will to provide some instructions instead of letting someone else decide for them, they have that right.

This has nothing to do with euthanasia, which is outlawed in this country, and we do not deal with euthanasia whatsoever in this bill.

MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Doggett, as one of the people writing the bill, just to clear it up as you just did, make it clear-no one will be approached to have to make end-of-life decisions. That would be entirely up to the patient, the citizen, to bring up the topic, right?

DOGGETT: It's up to the patient to take it up with their doctor, if they so choose to, and euthanasia is not one of the options.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK, let me ask you about your state. You've got a half a dozen members of Congress, all Republicans, out there talking up this "birther" thing. There is absolutely no evidence the president was born anywhere but the United States. We've got a birth certificate. We've got an announcement of his birth at the time, all kinds of contemporary information, including the testimony of his mother, his grandparents, everybody who knew him, the governor of the state, who's a Republican, all the department heads, all the information anybody could want that he was born in America. They knew it at the time. We know it now. What is it in the water down in Texas that leads your Republican colleagues to join the "birther" movement?

DOGGETT: Well, Chris, I'm not sure it's the water. I think it's just a certain fanaticism that they cannot accept the fact that Barack Obama is our president, that he's working for change. It's the same fanaticism I saw on Saturday of people talking about a government takeover in health care, when all the independent studies have shown that 96 percent of the people that would turn to an insurance exchange would go into a private plan with new standards and 4 percent would choose something like Medicare.

MATTHEWS: Wow. And you also have a governor that was talking up secession lately. What's that about? I thought you guys joined the union back in the 19th century and were quite happy here.

DOGGETT: Yes, Chris, that's like this crowd on Saturday, too, holding up the 10th Amendment and saying that the 10th Amendment prevents our getting health care bill through. And when I asked them about that-because all your video shows is the end of the meeting, not the hour that I spent with them responding to their taunts and questions-they admitted that they're not only against health care reform, but they'd like to see the repeal of Medicare and Social Security. This is about whether our country goes backwards or provides the coverage people so much want.

MATTHEWS: Go forward with Austin, sir. Thank you. U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas. Thank you.

DOGGETT: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's watch this video from yesterday in Philadelphia, just to show you this thing is going all around the country, where another rowdy crowd shouted down U.S. Senator Arlen Specter and also health secretary Kathleen Sebelius. They got shouted down, too. Watch this (INAUDIBLE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: I have never seen members of Congress work harder on it. It is unacceptable to me for somebody that...

(BOOS)

SEBELIUS: Hours and hours and hours and hours have been spent. If people say that they haven't read the legislation, then tell them to go back and read it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do!

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My practice, when you have a bill, and we have a lot of them that are a thousand pages, is to take my top staff, and we divide up the bill. We have to make judgments very fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, who's behind this? Joining us right now is U.S. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Senator, who's behind these raging crowds of anti-health reform folks?

SEN. BOB CORKER ®, TENNESSEE: I have no idea, Chris. I'm going to have town hall meetings throughout the state of Tennessee this next month, and I'm sure we'll have large crowds. And my guess is there may be some folks on the other side of the issue there, but I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this debate over end of life, this argument from some on the right that the Obama health care plan is going to confront old people with decisions about, Well, you're costing the government a lot of money and your relatives a lot of money, maybe we should pull the plug? This is out there. Is it fair, that shot at this bill?

CORKER: Well, you know, first of all, I'm focused on the Senate bill, and right now the Finance Committee is really the place where the action is in the Senate, OK? But I think certainly calling for Medpac (ph), a body that's outside the-you know, the Congress, to be able to make decisions probably does give concern to people about rationing.

I think most of us know-you know this, and I think most of us that have been involved in this issue-that most of the dollars that we spend in our lifetime on health care is at the end. And so I think when people start hearing about folks that are not elected being able to make decisions about those kinds of things, it probably gives them concern.

And certainly hearing that-and you're hearing that, I'm certainly hearing that myself-anything that gets done-and by the way, I want to see us have appropriate health care reform. I really do. And I think there's so much that we could agree upon and actually do this in a way that actually doesn't create all of this concern, in some cases rightful concern by citizens, and I hope that when we get back in September, after people on both sides of the aisle have attended many, many town halls, we'll be able to do that.

MATTHEWS: You know, when one party is out of power and you're in the minority, as your party is now, sir, there's often the call, Well, we have an alternative to what the majority party wants. And I always like to think, and this goes for both parties, Why didn't you push your alternatives when you were in power? If you had a big health care reform plan, why didn't you push it when you had George Bush and the House and the Senate? You had the whole shebang. Why didn't you do it then?

CORKER: Well, you know, I've been here two-and-a-half years and actually did write a bill that is very much centered on the kind of things I espouse today, and that is, look, I think we should limit the exclusion, the employer exclusion, so that Cadillac health care plans are taxed. I think you read the other day where-I'm not picking on them, but it's the case Goldman Sachs, their executives get a $40,000, $41,000-a-year plan. Tax those above $17,000 and use those monies-use the money generated to actually allow people that cannot afford health care today to be able to buy it.

And that's something that I think, Chris, we could get a large bipartisan support for. It would actually go way down the road to solving this problem.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think you're right. Isn't that what people like Ron Wyden want to do, and his Republican colleague?

CORKER: Yes, it is. And Chris, I met with the president two weeks ago. And I appreciate it. I have been to meetings that-you can't imagine the number of meetings I've been to on health care. I do not understand why the president will not sit down with leadership and focus on this very sensible solution.

The other piece, Chris, is taking $400 billion out of Medicare, which is, we all know, insolvent. The trustees have told us it's going to be insolvent in 2017 -- taking money away from Medicare, not doing the doc (ph) fix-you see us each year squiring, figuring out ways to pay providers so they won't be cut by 21 percent-not even dealing with that, but using that money to leverage an entire new program-to me, it's just not sensible.

And to me, there are extremes that are being discussed on both sides. I think we could come together and do something in September that makes a lot of sense and does not create budget deficits. I really do.

MATTHEWS: Are you one of those that wants to see a health care bill passed this year?

CORKER: I do. I campaigned on it. I was the commissioner of finance in a state that had lots of people without health care, and I have wanted to see that happen. There's a way to do it that's market-based. This government plan and the issue of using Medicare dollars to me are two non-starters. The fact is, if you look at Medicare Part D, I mean, there are probably 40 pharmaceutical companies or plans vying for seniors' help (ph) in this-in health care. I don't know why we don't use those kinds of models to solve this plan, and that's what Wyden and Bennett does. I have some problems with that bill, but if it can be corrected, it's the kind of thing I think a lot of us could get behind.

MATTHEWS: Senator, you said you're going to have a town meeting. If the issue of this "birthing" thing comes up-because it's been coming up at all these meetings-what will you say, if somebody stands up, like they did to mike Castle, a moderate Republican over in Delaware-he got hit with it. What would you do if you got hit with somebody saying, I don't believe the president was born in this country?

CORKER: First of all, I'm going to have lots of town hall meetings, and from what I've seen over the last week and in times past, Chris, it appears to me that our president is a citizen. Sometimes citizens groups enlighten us, and certainly, people have the freedom in this country to try to do that, but from my standpoint, it's a settled issue.

MATTHEWS: So do you think it's legitimate to raise questions about whether he's a native-born American or not? Is that a legitimate point?

CORKER: Well, look, you know, that's-here-you know, in this country, that is what's great about it, people have the ability to raise anything they wish. They have the ability to go to court and try to pursue it. I think that's great.

From my standpoint, again, it's settled. I mean, it looks to me like he's a citizen. There's newspaper documents or writings about congratulating him when he was birthed. But the fact is that sometimes people educate us, and certainly, if that's what people wish to do, let them do it. I'm sure that I will see them. We've received lots of letters in our office from "birthers." They're heart-felt. I happen to feel differently about the issue, but I'm glad we live in a country where people can raise issues that concern them like that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

CORKER: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the loudest voices in the Republican Party all seem to be coming from the extreme far right. Can the Republicans rebound with the right-wingers leading the way, or is this a recipe for victory? You got to wonder, if you heat up the base, does that help you win the election?

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The loudest voices of the Republican Party right now seem to be coming from the extreme right, from the "birthers" who insist president Obama was not born in the U.S., to accusations that the Democrats' health care plan will kill the elderly, or at least urge them to kill themselves. And there's all kinds of talk from the talk show world about the president himself being a racist.

But can the far right actually help the Republicans with a comeback next year? Can they give them the juice to win those off-year elections next year? Joe Conason's with "The New York Observer," a great newspaper, and Pat Buchanan is a MSNBC political analyst, who's a leading voice in the conservative movement.

Pat, does it help or hurt to have the "birthers" out there if you're trying to win elections next year on the "R" side?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think it's going to be an issue next year, but I'll tell you this, Chris...

MATTHEWS: I mean the crazies out there, the real far right.

BUCHANAN: Oh, I mean, you're doing the "birthers" thing. You've given them enormous attention. They're loving it, and you fellows are loving it. The cable news, the ratings are going up.

MATTHEWS: Well, where do you stand?

BUCHANAN: I think that Barack Obama-as I said, "The Honolulu Advertiser" closes the case for me. But I think that there's no doubt about it...

MATTHEWS: But what's in the juice out there? Why would somebody believe or spend two seconds pushing the argument-I can see somebody doing it for a radio show, to get the ratings up. But why would any normal person in a free country push the idea that their president is foreign-born and therefore ought to be picked up because he never went through a naturalization process, so he ought to be picked up and arrested for (ph) another country, if you buy the argument.

BUCHANAN: Well, it's the same reason people thought Lyndon Johnson was behind Jack Kennedy's death, or the same people that thought...

MATTHEWS: But they weren't demonstrating-they weren't calling in and all that stuff.

BUCHANAN: Same people did (INAUDIBLE) George Bush. You know, he didn't act on New Orleans because it was African-American folks that were being hurt. People are out there all the time, Chris. You ought to let them go. And look, what the Republicans are doing while you're doing this, they're killing that health care bill...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but no, the reason, Pat, that we're doing it is that we have a number that just came in last week that 30 percent of the Republican Party nationally doesn't know this guy was born in this country.

BUCHANAN: It's probably gone up...

MATTHEWS: No, no-another 20-some percent believe he was definitely was born foreign. The South, overwhelmingly-a majority of Southerners, according to this poll, don't believe he was born in this country. This isn't something we cooked up here.

BUCHANAN: But so what?

MATTHEWS: This is out there.

BUCHANAN: So what?

MATTHEWS: Well, we're talking-it's a crazy world, isn't it, Pat? It's something worth talking about, that the country doesn't believe their president is one of them.

BUCHANAN: I haven't been...

MATTHEWS: He's somebody else.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, I haven't been talking-I don't agree with them, but I haven't been talking about this...

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's normal behavior to talk about a guy being from another country, when he's head of your country?

BUCHANAN: I don't think...

MATTHEWS: How many countries in the world have conversations about whether the guy who's leading their country is from some other country?

BUCHANAN: Why are you in the conversation, then?

MATTHEWS: Because it's huge! It's out there...

BUCHANAN: It's not huge!

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Let's go. Joe Conason...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: You made it huge. You made it huge.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: .. Joe Conason-I am personally responsible?

BUCHANAN: You helped.

MATTHEWS: I have got a lot of power.

Pat-Joe, your thoughts on this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did we create this here on this show?

(CROSSTALK)

JOE CONASON, COLUMNIST, SALON.COM: No.

MATTHEWS: We created the-the-the-we put the thalidomide, or whatever you call it...

CONASON: I don't...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What's that stuff they put in the water? The...

CONASON: Whatever they have been drinking.

MATTHEWS: Never mind.

(LAUGHTER)

CONASON: No, I don't think you're responsible, Chris. I do think...

MATTHEWS: Fluoride.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, we...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We fluoridated the water.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts.

CONASON: Well, the problem the Republicans have is that the leadership of their party is not in Congress, although they're even 11 members of Congress who support or give some kind of support to this insane theory.

It's that the leadership of their party is in talk radio. It's on the wilder reaches of the blogosphere. Those are the people who have put this forward. And the people who believe this in the Republican base don't really care what the politicians in their party are saying about it.

They give a mealymouthed answer, like Bob Corker's answer. You know, well, I think so, but I'm sure glad to hear from the people who don't. You know, they are listening to the people with conviction who are on talk radio who are saying, hey, Barack Obama is from another country.

And you know why they're saying this, Chris. This is in-a way of trying to create fear of the other, fear of a black president. It's-it's nothing new. It's an old story. It was, I think, unfortunately, inevitable when we finally elected a black president.

But that's what-where the problem lies. It lies in the weakness of the Republican leadership as it is and in the strength of the crazy fringe that's-that's in their media.

BUCHANAN: All right, let me disagree...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about his point, that people like Dobbs and Beck and Rush have been pushing this story?

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, maybe they...

MATTHEWS: And they push other stories related to it.

BUCHANAN: Maybe they believe it, but I will say this. Listen, Chris, the Republican Party is not in bad shape. The Republican Party is getting in better shape.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because of this?

BUCHANAN: It's not this. They're taking down health care. They got this global warming is now a hoax. The stimulus bill...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You think global warming is a hoax?

BUCHANAN: I do think it's a hoax.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It's a hoax?

BUCHANAN: I think it goes up and down. The idea this is some grave, horrible...

MATTHEWS: There's no-CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases doesn't exist? None of that exists?

BUCHANAN: No, it does-of course it exists. The idea that we're all going to die of this is utter nonsense. It's a power transfer to governments here and government...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And the motivation is what?

BUCHANAN: And the motivation is power. It always is in government programs...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So-so, people like Al Gore have cooked this up to get what?

BUCHANAN: No, I think he believes it, Chris...

MATTHEWS: OK.

BUCHANAN: ... like the birthers believe it. He's just like they are.

It's a religious belief to them.

I will say this. The Republicans are doing fine. Obama is coming down in the polls. Republicans lead on the deficit, on taxes, on the budget. They're coming up.

MATTHEWS: So, science and anti-science are equal?

BUCHANAN: Science-science-Look, I agree with the CO2 and its partial effect, but it's been going down for 10 years. It's going up. When I was in Iowa, they said the Hills are here because the ice caps stopped here for heaven's sake.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: The idea that this is some dangerous thing is preposterous.

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: The Democrats will be very lucky if the Republicans listen to people like Pat, who spread ideas that are very outmoded. They were outmoded when he started to spread them 40 years ago, particularly about race and-and entitlement of white people and all of the rest of that.

This is a party that is in decline partly because the leadership of it is nuts on talk radio, and partly because they have no answers to the problems that really exist, whether it's climate change, whether it's a health care system that doesn't work for most of the Americans anymore, or whether it's...

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: ... the problems of an economy that is declining.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It's not just Joe that talks like this or me.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: All right.

MATTHEWS: George Voinovich, who is still a senator-he's a lame duck from Ohio-he had been governor.

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: He said: "We have too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns in the party. It's the Southerners. People hear them and say, these people, they're Southerners. The party's being taken over by Southerners. And what the hell they got to do with it?"

And the South is where this argument that the president is not one of us is rooted.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: All the opinion polling shows that that's where the heart of it is. Why?

BUCHANAN: But, Chris, that's a whine.

MATTHEWS: Why isn't it the truth?

BUCHANAN: George Voinovich is from Ohio. Why isn't he out there leading? Why aren't the Republicans from the Northeast or the West leading?

MATTHEWS: Because they're disappearing.

CONASON: They have lost their-they have lost their elections.

That's why.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Well, OK, they're disappearing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They get blown off.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: They're getting-they're losing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Santorum tried to lead. He's gone.

BUCHANAN: Well, they're gone.

MATTHEWS: New England is gone.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don't have a single congressman in New England.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Not a single one left.

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: Because-because they're all forced to conform to the crazy right.

BUCHANAN: Is that fault of the South, that we don't have one in New England?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They got beat-they got singing the praises of your party.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They tried to be loyal, Pat.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They all got blown away.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, I know we're in trouble in a lot of ways. But, Chris, in a terrible way...

MATTHEWS: D'Amato was one. He couldn't have been more a hearty fighter than you are.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He's as tough as you are. He got blown away...

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: ... got blown away 10 years ago.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Demographically, the party is in trouble. But I will tell you this. I have never seen a situation...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Are you telling me that the North is dead in the Republican Party because they haven't fought hard enough?

BUCHANAN: My concern is the presidency. And I'm telling you-and the Congress in 2010 -- and I'm telling you, we will pick up, I believe, 30 seats in the House...

MATTHEWS: Because the moderate Republican Party is coming back in the North.

BUCHANAN: And I'm telling-no, and I'm telling...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Charlie Crist.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... they're going to win.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: We will not nominate another moderate. They lose every time for the presidency. You nominate a conservative in 2012, and he can beat Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: Can Sarah Palin beat the president?

BUCHANAN: No, Sarah Palin, as of now, cannot beat the president. I think Romney now-as of now, could be the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He's a conservative now?

CONASON: They don't have anybody who can beat the president now.

BUCHANAN: Well, he's-every time he flops, he comes in our direction, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

CONASON: They don't have a program, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You are a moving target, Pat Buchanan.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I can't-Pat has got four hats. I never know which one he's wearing. It's subliminal, how quickly he changes them.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Now you're being a political analyst or a partisan? I can't tell.

BUCHANAN: Well, I'm an analyst, yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know you are, but you capable of being an analyst at any moment.

CONASON: He's not even always a Republican.

BUCHANAN: But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I never know when you're going to be an analyst and when you're going to be a full-mooner.

BUCHANAN: Well, what I'm saying is, I-I mean, look, there's no-as an analyst, I'm telling you that, even though you're laughing at the party and mocking it...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I'm having fun because of what it chooses to talk about.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: But, Chris, what I'm telling you also, look at this, too. There is energy and fire in this thing. Six Republicans voted against Sotomayor. They have never stood up on a justice-a Supreme Court justice before.

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you what your with problem with your party is. I can have a presidential debate at the Reagan Library, and we can ask, who believes in evolution here? And you can get a show of hands of people that don't. Even though they were taught it in biology in high school, they completely believe-and you were taught it in high school, too, at Gonzaga.

You were taught biology. Don't tell me you weren't taught it. You weren't taught creationism in biology.

CONASON: He's forgotten.

BUCHANAN: I didn't take biology. They made me take Greek when I was in high school.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: I never took it.

But, biology, look, I have written books on-I mean, I have written columns on Darwin, book reviews on Darwin. Part of Darwin, yes, but there's Lamarck. There are other people that reject Darwin right now.

But, Chris, in terms of do I believe a big bang created the Earth or man came out of some-from tadpoles? No, I don't believe it, and I don't think you do either. Do you?

MATTHEWS: Did you climb trees as a kid?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Check it out. We will be right back.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He's got some monkey in him.

Anyway, Pat Buchanan, it's always fun to know how to get to the bottom of your brain.

BUCHANAN: I could never climb them.

MATTHEWS: And it's very deep.

Joe Conason, sir, you speak the truth.

CONASON: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next: the inside scoop or what Professor-this is amazing, what he said the other day-this will really drive you crazy-he ripped the scab off with this one. Henry Louis Gates told the officer that arrested him, he told him he would help get his kids into Harvard if he doesn't arrest him again.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That's next in the "Sideshow."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Talking about going to the heart of the matter.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. Geez.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and time for the "Sideshow."

Well, the gates of heaven-or at least Harvard-my Ivy League-our Ivy League professor, Henry Louis Gates, kicked back at a book festival on Martha's Vineyard this weekend, offering the scoop on last week's White House beer summit with the man who arrested him, Sergeant James Crowley.

Here he is, Professor Gates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY LOUIS GATES, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I asked him if he would have lunch with me one on one. I asked him maybe we could go to a Red Sox game together, maybe we could go to a Celtic game together. Maybe we could have dinner with our families, you know? Why not? I offered to get his kids into Harvard, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

GATES: ... if he doesn't arrest me ever again.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Actually, I think Harvard would do well to admit more kids of policemen. Talk about encouraging diversity up there.

Time now for tonight's "Big Number."

Conventional wisdom says the Democrats will lose ground in 2010 in the elections. The president's party generally does lose seats in Congress during the midterms. While that may well happen again this time, a new poll from Gallup just out has some good news for Democrats that may cushion the blow.

When taking a look at party identification, how many states are considered right now to be solidly Democrat? Thirty states out of the 50. Republicans, meanwhile, just have four states that are considered solidly Republican. Democrats have a significant I.D. edge, 30 states to four, going into the next election. That's tonight's "Big Number."

Up next: So, why is cash for clunkers out of money? Is it because it's extremely popular? Or is it because the government mismanaged it? I'm with the first theory. I think this is one of the smart moves.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joins us next to defend the program that may not need defending. Lots of people want to buy a new car now, because you save $4,500 per car.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Julia Boorstin with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

A solid rally on Wall Street today, with the S&P and Nasdaq topping some exciting round-number milestones. The Dow Jones industrials move up almost 115 points, the S&P 500 up 15 to put it above 1000 for the first time this year. And the Nasdaq added 30 to move it above 2000.

A pair of encouraging reports on the manufacturing sector helping move stocks higher today-manufacturing activity rose more than four points in July, beating expectations. And the new orders index jumped to 55, meaning expansion should be on the horizon.

Ford shares are up more than 4 percent today. The automaker said it's ready to post its first positive sales report in two years, thanks in part to the government's cash for clunkers program. And steel makers like Alcoa and AK Steel ended higher, as automakers ramped up production to meet demand generated by that program.

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

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The popular cash for clunkers rebate program already blew through $1 billion last week and will run out of gas by the end of this week if the Senate doesn't approve an additional $2 billion quick to keep it going. But the program is already getting some stiff resistance from some senators.

Check out what Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: The federal government went bankrupt in one week in the used car business, and now they want to run our health care system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that's what he thinks.

Let's go Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, a very popular fellow.

Mr. LaHood, OK, I got an old car I want to get rid of. Should I still go to my dealer and try to get a trade-in, so I get my $4,500?

RAY LAHOOD, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Absolutely. Go tonight. They're ready for you, because there's still a lot of cars to be sold, and the money is still available.

We're-we-we are working with the Senate this week, so they will pass the $2 billion to continue the program. But we're encouraging people to go buy cars, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, we-Pat Buchanan and I were agreeing on something a few minutes ago off camera. And we decided there was something like-there's usually 17 million cars sold in this country. This year, the prediction was only 10 million. So, that means seven million people normally would want to buy a car, but weren't making plans to do it.

With your program, if you do-it would cost about $28 billion to get those-or more-about $30 billion to move those seven million cars. Are you that ambitious? Can we move seven million cars through this program?

LAHOOD: Well, look it, Chris, this is a wildly popular program. It's a win-win for the American worker who makes the cars, for the car salesmen, for the mechanics, for the dealerships. If you walked into a dealership maybe a week or so ago-or two weeks ago-it was like walking into a funeral home.

Today, it's like...

MATTHEWS: I know.

LAHOOD: ... walking into a bus station or an Amtrak station.

MATTHEWS: But I'm with you. You're missing my point.

LAHOOD: I believe that...

MATTHEWS: I'm not a skeptic. I want you to do well.

I'm wondering what's going to happen a week from now, when the next $2 billion runs out, and the Senate and House are on vacation.

LAHOOD: As soon as...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And we're going to have hell to pay in this country, with all these dealers saying, get Congress back from vacation.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I need to sell some more cars.

LAHOOD: Chris, the $2 billion that the Senate will pass this week will take us through the-until after Labor Day. It will take us through August, and we will be able to meet all the demands that are out there.

MATTHEWS: Want to bet?

I'm telling you, you already went through a billion in one week.

LAHOOD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Why is it going to take you four weeks to go through two?

It doesn't make mathematics sense.

LAHOOD: Because, over time, this will diminish a little bit, Chris, and-and I think the enthusiasm for this was-was a pent-up demand. And some of it will diminish a little bit.

And-and I just-our belief is that this $2 billion will continue to be the lifeline that will take us through the month of August.

MATTHEWS: OK.

LAHOOD: We believe that.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me-let me do-let me do my bit, Mr.

Secretary.

Now-now hear this. If you have a car you don't like, you're tired of it, it starts to smell, it's got too many dents in it, it embarrasses you, you can get a new car. All you got to do have a 10 MPG differential, which is easy to find, a car with a little-a decent mileage, and you can get a new car with like a-well, a 25 percent discount, basically, right?

It's an amazing deal.

LAHOOD: Absolutely. It's a...

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about...

LAHOOD: It's a phenomenal deal. And...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

LAHOOD: Well, I was just going to say, and the car-some-

Chrysler is putting another $4,500 on top of it. So, you end up getting $9,000 off a-of a van or another auto-another type of automobile. It's a-it's a win-win.

MATTHEWS: You know, Pat Buchanan had this idea weeks ago on this show. I don't know if it got on the air, but we always sit between the commercials, watch and make-and try to figure out what we're doing in this country. And he thought it would be a good idea generally.

Do you think this could bring back-it seems like Mulally-Ford is already making a profit this second quarter. Do you think this could help bring back the American auto industry and maybe save GM, maybe save-save Chrysler?

LAHOOD: I don't think there's any question about it. This is the lifeline that will bring back the automobile industry in America, which has been hurting very badly. And Americans are buying these automobiles because they've been, you know, racking up 100,000 miles on cars, and now they have a chance to get into a new car, which Americans love to do. They love to buy cars. This is their chance to do it.

MATTHEWS: If I gave you 50,000 dollars right now Mr. Secretary, what car would you buy? What's the best-how about if I give you 30,000? What's the best car to get out there?

LAHOOD: I have my eye on an Explorer, four-wheel drive. But I have a '97 Buick Regal that doesn't qualify for the program. I may still buy the Explorer. I have been talking to a dealer back in Peoria about this. But I would buy a Ford Explorer.

MATTHEWS: I think it's the greatest program we've ever come up with.

I think it's a chance for people-

LAHOOD: And by the-

MATTHEWS: It's a chance for the guy working his butt off on some car line to actually produce something that's going to sell. It is going to empty the car lots. I don't know who came up with this idea. Was it your idea, this idea to get cash for clunkers?

LAHOOD: I wish it was. It was somebody in Congress. Actually, it was a couple people in Congress. And it's a great idea. By the way, I own a Ford Escape Hybrid in Peoria. And it's one of the best cars that I have ever owned.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Ray Lahood, a very popular member of the American cabinet, a Republican serving in a bipartisan fashion, as you can see.

Up next, it's official, Arlen Specter has a primary challenger. Tomorrow morning, U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak-well, he's been to 67 counties already. There's only 67 counties. I think it's fair to say he intends to announce tomorrow morning. He's going to run against Specter and bring democracy back to where it began, in Philly. Much more on Specter's troubles coming up. So it's going to be a real race to the politics fix. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We're back. Time for the politics fix with syndicated radio host and MSNBC contributor Michael Smerconish. Michael, thanks for joining us. And "Politico's" Jonathan Martin.

We have a lot up your tree tonight on a number of fronts, Michael. What do you make of this firestorm that's going on across the country? We have pictures from Texas, from Long Island, from Philly. Every time a member of Congress or a senator calls a town meeting now, the people show up and it's like-I don't know, it's like Iran. It's like the streets of Tehran. What do you make of this?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: People are hot. I sense it in the phone calls that I get every day. I think they're very nervous about what's going to come out of this debate concerning national health care. And, Chris, if I have heard once in the last couple of days, I have heard it 50 times, if they can't get cash for clunkers straight, what in the world are they going to do with my national health insurance?

MATTHEWS: You mean they won't figure out the numbers right.

SMERCONISH: Yes, they won't figure out the numbers right and it smacks of bureaucratic ineptitude that the federal government has blown through this money so quickly on a plan that seems seemingly straight forward.

I also think what's going on is that many people don't understand the

elements of this debate. So what do they know? They know they have health

insurance. They know that there's this enormous price tag that's being

assigned to insuring the 45 or so million who don't have it. And so they -

frankly, what they say is why can't we just write them a check and pay for it. It sounds like it would be less expensive.

MATTHEWS: That's the question, Jonathan. For years now, ever since Harry Truman, the Democrats have said let's have health insurance. Every poll that's been taken saying we ought to insure the people who are uninsured in this country, the 57 million-the number keeps growing. In principle, everybody wants to do this. At least the majority does. What happened?

JONATHAN MARTIN, "POLITICO": It's hard to understand given that. You have 60 Democrats in the Senate. And the House is in lock too.

MATTHEWS: They all ran on promising health care.

MARTIN: The devil is in the detail on these things. The fact is you've got a disparate party, in the House especially, Chris. As you know, some of these Blue Dogs are just not going to go along with the sort of conventional liberal line of the party. That's causing problems.

Now, the Democrats strategy right now is to try to blame the health insurance companies, try to blame the Republicans. I think the hard reality is right now this is a Democratic problem. And they got to figure this out on their own.

Let's speak real fast to the passion that we're seeing at some of these town hall rallies. It seems to me for the first time since maybe even four years, that on the right-

(CROSS TALK)

MARTIN: We're finally see on the right some real fire.

MATTHEWS: Here's --

MARTIN: You didn't see it last year during the McCain campaign. I think folks now are finally fired up.

MATTHEWS: The dog that hasn't barked here, as we say in Sherlock Holmes lingo, Michael, is where the hell are the people who want health care, the poor people out there, the people who work hard but don't have health care, the union people? Where are they? I haven't seen one placard, let alone one protest demonstration, for health care.

SMERCONISH: And I don't hear from them either as radio callers. So you hear from the people who, in retrospect now-in hindsight they say, maybe my health insurance isn't so bad. Heck, I will take what I've already got, if I can maintain the status quo, because I'm so concerned about the cost of whatever this change is going to bring.

MATTHEWS: But Michael Moore-I don't care what you think of Michael Moore. His movie "Sicko" was really smart, because it didn't focus on the uninsured. It focused on the middle class person who thought they were insured. When they had a real health challenge, Michael-you know all about this. They found out that there are geniuses working at headquarters who kept them from getting their coverage. That's what it's really about, isn't it, the people that think they've covered, and find out when they get really sick they can't get the money?

SMERCONISH: Chris, I think that's legitimate. But proportionately, how many people have been to that situation and consequently have found out what they really have or don't have. I think the vast majority, thank god, haven't been in that position yet.

MARTIN: It also takes somebody who is very passionate about the issues to, in the middle of summer, vacation or work, what have you, to show up at a town hall meeting with a politician. Chris, most normal folks just don't do those kinds of things. And those events draw people who are passionate on one side or the other.

MATTHEWS: How much is this thing about people coming to you and talking about end of life decisions, spook people, Michael? This provision talks about you get to talk about a living will. It sounds to some people like you're getting a little ill, and, all of a sudden, somebody shows up at your door, like they're a missionary, and says, let's talk about how you're going to save the government money, and your family the burden of your continuing to live. That's what hits some people.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I think-I think, Chris, what you're really saying is that there are some sound bites out there. You've got to sift through the urban lore that attaches to the health care debate. The sound bites are what people repeat.

I'll give you another one. It's that perpetual question of to what extent is there going to be some level of funding before for abortion? I hear a lot about abortion. I hear about --

MATTHEWS: The abortion thing is legitimate. I've looked in the language. They are not willing to foreclose it. The Hyde Amendment, which we all know about, says no federal dollar can pay for anybody's abortion, for the obvious reason, people ware ho opposed to abortion don't want to have to pay for it, directly or indirectly, as tax payers. I don't know why the Democrats don't just say, not a dollar of this bill is going to pay for abortion. Jonathan, they won't say that. .

MARTIN: I think there are competing interest groups here. You're absolutely right, Chris.

MATTHEWS: The government says you can't spend money on abortion.

MARTIN: The polarizing issues, the whole issue about Euthanasia, however credible it may or may not be-are causing Democrats problems right now. The average American hears those things. And they sort of flinch, whether or not they are true or not. That's what's slowing this bill down, are those kind of flash point issues out there, that the Republicans are exploiting.

MATTHEWS: We'll be right back with Michael Smerconish to talk about Pennsylvania politics, which is fascinating. As I said earlier, democracy may be returning to Pennsylvania, if you believe democracy means you get a choice, because it looks like Joe Sestak is about to challenge Arlen Specter, the new guy on the Democratic side of the aisle. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We're back with Michael Smerconish and Jonathan Martin. Let's talk about democracy, well, blooming out in Pennsylvania. It looks like U.S. Senator Arlen Specter is going to have a challenge from US Congressman Joe Sestak tomorrow morning. What do you make of it, Michael, This is the big story tomorrow in Philly, I'm sure.

SMERCONISH: You know, Chris, there's a lot of volatility, apparently, in the state. Quinnipiac was in the field two weeks ago with a poll that I saw which said that pat Toomey is now neck-and-neck with Spector in a general election, but that Specter defeats Sestak by a two to one margin in a primary.

So I don't know what Sestak is seeing in the primary numbers. But I think there's this possibility that Senator Specter becomes the embodiment of the administration at a time when there's a lot of concern about the spending. That's really what I think is driving this.

MATTHEWS: It would be odd to get in a life boat and have the life boat sink, right, Michael, friend of Arlen Specter?

SMERCONISH: I am a friend of Arlen Specter. I make no bones about it. What was the alternative, to stay in the primary? There are no Republicans left in the state.

MATTHEWS: I know, but you never know which party is going to be stronger in Pennsylvania next year. You just never know. Go ahead, Jonathan.

MARTIN: Chris, I do wonder just how upset organized labor and the White House are that Sestak is going to be in this race. Think about it, he is someone who can keep Specter honest. If Specter starts drifting back to his GOP roots, maybe, if he goes soft on this labor vote, for example, the organizing vote, health care, what have you, energy, having this threat from the left out there keeps him honest. It keeps him loyal to his new party.

MATTHEWS: Why do you think the president and governor and everybody are supporting Specter, Michael?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think those were commitments that were offered to him at a time when they didn't think there would be a serious opponent for Senator Specter. And I don't know that Sestak, in the end, is going to be a serious opponent for Specter. It's really hard to prognosticate on this.

But what was the down side at that time? They picked up a 60th vote.

That was their calculus.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me-I grew up in Pennsylvania, as you know. I don't vote there now. I have to tell you, democracy is a good thing, guys. And I think it's good to always have a choice. And I think if you don't have a choice, it's really not democracy. And I have to hand it to Sestak, who I think may be giving up a career in Congress.

I am with you, Michael, and anybody else who thinks it's an uphill battle. I think Specter is a strong favorite in that primary fight. He could clock him, for all I know, because he's got tremendous ties to the organization and the governor and everybody else. He could really hurt Sestak and ruin his career basically.

But Sestak at least has the guts to stand up, in an uphill battle, and offer the voters democracy. That is a-that is a contribution.

MARTIN: What's funny is that he was recruited, Chris, Sestak was, by Democrats. He was a retired admiral, an independent guy, would go his own way. He was part of that Democrat class of '06 that Rahm was so proud of. Now here he is showing off some of that independent spirit, not helping the establishment of the party.

MATTHEWS: Don't voters generally like a choice, Michael?

SMERCONISH: Oh, I think they do like a choice. And I think we're going to be the epicenter next year. Hey, Chris, I am wondering if there are others out there on the side lines who are saying tonight, man, maybe I should have gotten into this. This looks like a lot of fun.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I better this. Michael Smerconish, thank you. I want to ask you-let me ask you about the birther movement. Is it big in Pennsylvania or is it a southern thing?

SMERCONISH: I think it's a fringe thing all around.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Michael Smerconish, moderate suburban Republican, who speaks for the row house guys. Michael Smerconish, a friend of Arlen Specter. You're still for democracy, I hear. Jonathan Martin, thank you.

Join us again tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern form more HARDBALL. I love the way you speculate. By the way, that's the big fight coming here. We're going to have Sestak on tomorrow night, I hope, to talk about his run for the Senate in Pennsylvania. What a hot race that's going to be. Right now it's time for "THE ED SHOW" with Ed Schultz.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

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