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updated 8/19/2009 12:05:22 PM ET 2009-08-19T16:05:22

Guests: Chuck Todd, Julia Boorstin, Eleanor Clift, Pat Buchanan, Alan Gottlieb, Ron Reagan, Rep. Anthony Weiner

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Anger management.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

The numbers behind the anger.  OK, we‘ve got a new NBC News poll.  It gives you a good idea of why a lot of people are angry about the health care reform push, and it shows that the reasons for this anger—concern the health care plan will pay for illegal immigrants, that it‘ll pay for abortion, that it will lead to a government takeover of health care—are all basically unfounded.  The bill that passes Congress and gets signed by the president this year is not going to do any of those things.

Meanwhile, while many people are worried that the government will try to do too much with health care, liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives are saying the president may not do enough, that he‘s not fighting hard enough to get what‘s called the public option, a government-run insurance plan to complement and compete with the plans sold by insurance companies.

U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner is one of those liberals who wants to see the government-run health care financing, period.  In fact, he sees no reason to even have private insurance companies.  He‘s precisely, by the way, what conservatives fear most, the liberal who wants a single-payer system, a liberal who wants government and only government financing health care.  We‘re going to have him on to explain his position.  He‘s coming here to HARDBALL tonight.

And we have to talk gunplay tonight.  Protesters are again bringing loaded guns to rallies outside President Obama‘s town hall meetings.  This guy in Phoenix yesterday was carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.  No permits required, no arrests made.  You can believe these people are merely practicing their constitutional right to bear arms, but why are they doing it at presidential events?

This country has a bad history of guns at presidential events starting in 1865 and running through Garfield, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, who was shot at, FDR, who was shot at, Harry Truman, who was shot at, JFK, Gerald Ford, who was shot at twice, and Ronald Reagan, who was shot.  Let‘s get at it tonight.  Why are people bringing guns to presidential events?

And let‘s have a discussion about Robert Novak, the conservative columnist and provocateur.  You could call him a tummler, in fact.  He knew how to shake things up.  He died today.  Let‘s talk to Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift about him.  They were two people who were with him, Bob Novak, when he hit television actually in the first place, back on the old great—well, it‘s still on the air—“McLaughlin Group.”

We begin with that new NBC poll that explains the heat over health care.  It really does.  NBC News‘s Chuck Todd is our political director, of course, at NBC News, and also the chief White House correspondent for NBC News.  By the way, Twinkle Toes couldn‘t make it tonight.  Tom DeLay is working hard to get ready for “Dancing With the Stars.”  He took time out today to begin his rehearsal.  He‘ll be on tomorrow night.  By the way, Twinkle Toes is his name.  It‘s no longer “the hammer.”  Sorry.  That‘s your job description.

President Obama‘s job approval—thank you, Chuck.  You got a chuckle out of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... we have fun here!  The health care -- 41 percent, that‘s the same as it was a month ago, 41 percent for it, 47 percent against it.  No change there.  Also, look at this.  If you think the Republicans are gaining in this mishmash, take a look again -- 62 percent don‘t like what the Republicans are doing on health care, 21 percent do.  So 3 to 1, they don‘t like what the Republicans are talking about.

This is interesting, Chuck—Chuckaroo!

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Yes, sir?

MATTHEWS:  How can it be that people are so mad—at least, half the country seems to be...

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... about health care, and yet at the same time, they‘re not giving the Republicans anything on it?

TODD:  Well, this just goes—you know, this is our third straight poll where we have seen erosion in President Obama‘s numbers in some form or another, whether overall job rating in this, in health care, and the various thing we saw on the economy...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who do they trust on health care?

TODD:  But that‘s the thing.  We have not ever yet seen a bounce up for the Republicans.  It is still—look, we always say that the country has ADD, you know, and doesn‘t seem to remember what happened just five minutes ago.  They still remember that they fired the Republicans for the last two elections, and so...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re invested in that retirement.

TODD:  That‘s right.  And they haven‘t yet—there‘s nothing to believe there.  There is room here.  If Obama fails, if Obama and the Democrats fail, I—you know, the big warning to both political parties is if there‘s a short-term—if it happens soon, there‘s going—something is going to pop up somewhere else because they‘re not going to bounce to the Republicans.  They‘ll either not show up to the next election...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  There‘ll be—whatever—the angry voter will either not show up, or some other third entity is going to tap into something.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

TODD:  It‘s just—that is—that is what you—if there is—if it is seen as gridlock failure here with the Democrats, the Republicans haven‘t built up that trust.  There‘ll be some...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... gun-toting right-wing movement people out there who are far beyond either political party.

TODD:  The Republicans would say this.  They would argue, We haven‘t had to do anything to be for anything yet.  We‘re sitting here only running against something.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  And that‘s why there‘s a negative.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at this number, too, another set of numbers in the new NBC poll.  A majority of the country is more concerned that health care reform will go too far instead of not doing enough.  So now you see the growing concern, Do no harm—going too far, 54 percent.  Only 41 percent say it‘s not doing enough.

TODD:  Two most important groups, I would argue, in this are seniors, who—by the way, the lowest demographic group of approving of President Obama‘s performance.  All the age groups narrowly approve of the president, the president‘s overall job, but seniors, it‘s the lowest number.  That‘s not good for any Democratic president.  But it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  But they already have health care.

TODD:  Well, but...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that why they don‘t want any change?

TODD:  They‘re fearful of the change.  That‘s one group.

MATTHEWS:  But they have it now.

TODD:  The second group—correct.

MATTHEWS:  They have government-run health care.  It‘s called Medicare.

TODD:  That‘s right.  But I‘m saying that is—they have lost the message with seniors.  The second group that‘s important in that number that we just showed is people with private insurance.  And that‘s 60 percent of the country has private insurance.  And they are—and they are very concerned about seeing change because right now, at the end of the day, they still like what they have.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s—getting to your point here, a majority of the country now opposes the idea of public health care, what‘s called the “public option.”  It‘s very narrow, though.  In all fairness, it‘s within the margin of error.  It‘s 43 percent favor, 47 disfavor it, oppose it.

TODD:  By the way, interesting thing here because there are some groups who are trying to criticize us for how we‘re wording questions.  If you add the word “choice,” it can buy (ph) us a poll question.  So for the last two months, we took out the word the “choice” and said “competitor,” that the public—that the public insurance companies would—the public government option would compete against private insurance companies, and that‘s where you get a more narrow—but the thing...

MATTHEWS:  But guess what?  The liberals are now mad at us for not putting the word “choice”...

TODD:  They want the word “choice.”

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Everybody is going to be...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  ... angry about something.  The most important number in that demographic—we have a Blue Dog demographic sub-sample here, OK, which are white Democrats who do not identify—call themselves liberal.  They call themselves moderate or even conservative.  They have—they approve of the public opinion in much lower numbers than Democrats overall.  It‘s no wonder the president wants to—is putting that on the negotiating block.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at the stories that are making people angry.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Right now, the country is split on the town hall protests, 43 percent say they do harm, 42 percent say the opposite.  Let‘s leave that.  Let‘s take a look now at what‘s really driving the country...

TODD:  By the way, that‘s total polarization.  Sixty-four percent of Democrats...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  If you‘re on the right, you like it.

TODD:  (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  So let‘s go to the reasons.  This is what I really want to get to.  This is the reason why people are carrying guns, why they‘re getting so heated.  These are the reasons, I think.  Let‘s take a look at what the country thinks of the criticisms voiced at town hall meetings about health care reform.  Fifty-five percent think it‘s more likely that the illegal immigrants will get health insurance.  Now, I‘ve been checking around the Hill today.  People say this bill that comes out of the Congress will not pay for health insurance for illegal immigrants, period.

TODD:  Judged by fact-checkers, it‘s been proven untrue.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  Lookit, 55 percent.  This...

TODD:  So they‘re wrong.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re wrong, but this is what they‘re hearing and this is what...

TODD:  OK, it‘s a scare term and it‘s not right.  Second one—oh, let‘s—the government takeover.  It will lead to a government takeover.  Well, now, without even a public option being probable, the odds of this turning into a public—government takeover are almost zero.

MATTHEWS:  Look, one could argue that this is a debatable point.  This is depending on where you sit ideologically.  You—you know, there are conservatives that will argue Medicare has already been the start of the eventual takeover of government.  So in fairness, on that point, this is a debatable ideological view.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

TODD:  But obviously, a majority...

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s just a general trend towards more government involvement in our social issues.

TODD:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Fair enough.  Let‘s look at this one.  Pay for abortions -- 50 percent, half the country now say it‘s likely the taxpayers dollars will have—checking on the Hill, they say the Hyde amendment is still in effect.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  No federal dollars for abortion.

TODD:  Now, what some conservative groups argue is that because you will—because the federal government will subsidize lower-income folks to buy private insurance that will cover abortion, that you go from A to B to C to D, and eventually, that‘s proof that taxpayer money eventually will pay for an abortion.  Look, it depends on your point of view on that issue, if you believe (INAUDIBLE) taking that entire A to B to C to D route gets you to government...

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s the—that‘s a fair—that‘s a fair leap, though.  If you subsidize buying insurance...

TODD:  To some people, that‘s a fair leap.

MATTHEWS:  ... and that insurance covers abortion—so you‘re saying these plans would do that.

TODD:  Well, no, I‘m just saying that is the argument that...

MATTHEWS:  Well, will these plans—will these plans cover abortion the government‘s subsidizing?

TODD:  Not a single independent fact checker has been able to prove that...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  ... Hyde amendment is the law of the land.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see how the courts rule on that one.  How about “death panels”?

TODD:  Well, this was...

MATTHEWS:  Forty-five percent say there‘s going to be “death panels.”

TODD:  Well, no, and we worded it—we did not use the word “death panel” because I think “death panel” is a charged term, at this point.  We said that the government—the way we worded it to voters, that the government would make the ultimate decision of when to stop giving medical care to the elderly.  So we did not use a charged political term.  Forty-five percent believe this.  This was among—and for what it‘s worth, by the way, seniors actually believed it less than the overall public.  So this—you know, there has been this idea that somehow this was a scare tactic with seniors...

MATTHEWS:  So they believe the government will pull the plug.

TODD:  No, they don‘t.  A majority of seniors believe...

MATTHEWS:  But 45 percent do.

TODD:  But 45 percent.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a lot.

TODD:  It is a lot of people.

MATTHEWS:  And you figure they‘re not going to be for it!

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  It is a lot of people.  And you could argue—and we have one other question in here that tells you—so you make all these points on the myths, right, and you have 50 percent on three of the four, 45 percent, a near majority, on the fourth.  When you actually give them the president‘s plan, a majority approve of it, when you lay it out.

MATTHEWS:  Fifty-three, forty-three.

TODD:  Right.  So what does that tell you?  It means he‘s not getting his message across because...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  ... the opposition is (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this—let‘s get off the public opinion to politics.  You‘re very good at it.

TODD:  Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sort of a political moderate, meaning I‘d like to see progress made in this country, but I want to see our society hold together.  That‘s what kind of a person I am.  I want this society to stick together.  I want America to work, all right?  That‘s my basic notion.  If you don‘t get 60 votes in the Senate and you don‘t get 218 votes in the House, all this is blather.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  So why do people hold the positions that won‘t get 60 in the Senate and won‘t get 218 in the House?

TODD:  Well, I‘ll tell you this...

MATTHEWS:  Why would anybody take—and then still say...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  I assume you‘re talking about the public option.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Still say they‘re for health care reform.

TODD:  This fight over the public option.  And I‘ll tell you where the White House‘s head is.  They‘re frustrated because they believe, actually, the left—the people that are most up in arms on the public option don‘t understand what they‘re even for when it comes to the public—every—when you ask some groups on the left, What‘s the public option, they each give you a different definition.

So the White House is trying to preach patience here and saying, Hey, hold on a minute.  Maybe the co-ops is going to be able to...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... to do what you want it to do on the public option.  But you need to be patient here.  You need to understand that this stuff isn‘t politically popular, and in fact, it‘s not even politically popular with some Democrats.  As I pointed out, the Blue Dog Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK...

TODD:  This is a Democratic...

MATTHEWS:  We got Anthony Weiner coming here tonight...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Look, Anthony Weiner‘s constituents...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TODD:  ... OK, I can tell you, we can look at our—Anthony Weiner‘s constituents want what Anthony Weiner wants, single-payer health care.

MATTHEWS:  I know because he represents a district in Brooklyn, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  Ben Nelson‘s constituents...

MATTHEWS:  ... a liberal district, yes.

TODD:  ... don‘t want this.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I know.  There‘s different strokes.

TODD:  And you can‘t—and that‘s the political fact of life.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I agree.  Thank you very much, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, sir.

Coming up, backlash from the liberal side of things, indications that the president may be backing away from the public option and liberals don‘t like it.  Let‘s see what‘s workable here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The public option, whether we have it or we don‘t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform.  This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama on Saturday, just a few days ago, talking about the public option.  Well, is it dead?  Meaning, will there be a government option, a government alternative to private insurance for some people in this country?  Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner is from New York.  He‘s been around for a while, and he‘s a powerful member of the House powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

Sir, I watched you on the “TODAY” show—no, I think it was on “MORNING JOE” this morning.  You were good.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you this question.  You‘re for single-payer.

WEINER:  I am.

MATTHEWS:  You believe the government should run, basically, Medicare for everybody.

WEINER:  Not run, but we should be the ones to pay for it.  Still doctors should run their own shops.  Hospitals should run their own...

MATTHEWS:  Right, but the government should run...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  But we shouldn‘t give money to insurance companies to pay for it.  We should Medicare—a program like Medicare reimburse doctors and hospitals, right.

MATTHEWS:  You were pretty tough with my colleague, Joe Scarborough, this morning, saying, OK, what do insurance companies actually do?  Was that a rhetorical device, or do you really wonder what they do?

WEINER:  I wonder what...

MATTHEWS:  To make a living.

WEINER:  No, what the value added that they bring, like, what it is that they‘re adding to the...

MATTHEWS:  OK, Lee Iacocca...

WEINER:  ... transaction.

MATTHEWS:  ... makes cars.  Steven Spielberg makes movies.  What do insurance companies make?  What is their product?  Is it just—are they track (ph) counts (ph)?

WEINER:  No, insurance companies...

MATTHEWS:  Basically, beg (ph) for people not to have broken arms?

WEINER:  Basically, in non—in a commodity sense of the word, like automobiles, for example, where you can choose what car you drive, where you drive it...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WEINER:  ... they apportion risk.  That‘s not happening in the insurance industry, in the health insurance.  You‘re not shopping around when you need an operation.  You don‘t have the ability to say, I‘m going to not get asthma, if you‘re born with asthma.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WEINER:  It‘s not a commodity.  So the insurance model doesn‘t work in the traditional sense, like a car or house, that it does...

MATTHEWS:  OK, why do you think—you know this country, all across the country, even though you‘re from the East Coast.  I‘m from the East Coast.  Why do you think the people in the heartland are suspicious of a government-run health care financing plan, rather than something that has a brand name on it?  They seem more comfortable with a corporate brand name.

WEINER:  Because they have been successfully—I mean, people have confused the notion of liking your doctor or hospital and liking your insurance company.  I don‘t think people, despite what the president says, actually like their insurance company.  They like their doctor and are concerned that that relationship is going to get broken.  If you sit in a town hall meeting, as I have—I did a brunch of them—you have senior citizens sitting, nodding in agreement when they say Medicare works, and you have younger people...

MATTHEWS:  Well, of course it works.  It‘s a great deal.

WEINER:  You have younger people who are saying they don‘t get it.  But try this test out.  Take someone who is 50 years old or 55 years old and say, Hey, you‘re going to get Medicare next year.  They‘re going to be very happy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I agree with you.

WEINER:  So people who understand Medicare are not as suspicious as...

MATTHEWS:  OK—OK...

WEINER:  ... and that‘s 40 percent of the American people.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re a politician.  You deal with people, constituents, all the time.  And I remember working on the Hill, you get a lot of case work you have to deal with, people with particular problems with the government.  They don‘t get a disability claim they want to get.  You know.  You‘ve been to them all—and Social Security.

WEINER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Why is it that some people in the political middle are less fearful of some corporate person, middle-level person, like in “Sicko,” the movie, Michael Moore, saying no to you on a claim, and they‘re—but they‘re more worried about a government official saying no to them?  They can‘t get the transplant.  They can‘t get the MRI.  Why are they more afraid of the government?

WEINER:  It depends entirely what lens of your experience you‘re looking through.  You know, we deal with hundreds and hundreds of cases where we have people who have problems with their health insurance.  Very rarely do we have problems people who have problems with Medicare.  So you know, people pay into their health insurance and they‘re concerned they‘re going to lose their coverage.  Well, that‘s an unfounded fear.  People who know someone in their family that has Medicare buy the Weiner argument that we should make this simpler and just extend Medicare to more and more people.

MATTHEWS:  If we can afford it.

WEINER:  Well, look, health care inflation...

MATTHEWS:  But you admitted this morning we have a financing problem with Medicare.

WEINER:  A hundred percent.  And we have it with health care...

MATTHEWS:  How are going to—if we give the whole country Medicare, we‘ll really be...

WEINER:  Hold on a second.  The health—financing problem with Medicare is actually there‘s less growth in Medicare spending than there is in the private insurance side, you know?  And fewer people are losing their health insurance on Medicare, meaning nobody.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but the taxpayer is getting hit with it.

WEINER:  Yes, but—no, hold on.  The taxpayer‘s getting hit anyway, and this is the thing that I think the president‘s done a bad job with.  The uninsured—I care about them as a academic matter, but I really care about them because my constituents are paying for their health care through hospital emergency rooms.  If the president would get up and say, You know what?  You don‘t like paying that bill, either?  I don‘t want to, either.  We want to make sure...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I like that argument.  We‘re paying for it anyway.  A person has a right to go to an ER.  A hospital has a requirement to take care of people that come in.  But if we‘re already paying for all this health care for the 40-some million people that are uninsured right now, then why does it cost an extra trillion dollars to do it officially?

WEINER:  Because it doesn‘t cost an extra trillion dollars.  We‘re taking money—I think $3 billion...

MATTHEWS:  But that‘s the issue with the budget!

WEINER:  No, no, no.  People are looking at it all wrong.  I pay $3 billion extra taxes in New York City because now New York City residents are getting stuck with this.  Now we‘re going to say, Let‘s do this smart and do this with the federal government or do it with a co-op or do it with something else.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WEINER:  We are—the overall cost—if the overcall cost doesn‘t go down, we fail.

MATTHEWS:  So you think you‘re...

WEINER:  That‘s why...

MATTHEWS:  You think you‘re giving relief to the localities (INAUDIBLE)

WEINER:  We are—we are going to...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WEINER:  We are going to wind up...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WEINER:  We pay $2.5 trillion for health care.  If we don‘t pay $2 trillion in five years from now...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WEINER:  ... this whole process is a failure.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, it‘s a week before Halloween.  You got a vote on the floor.  You got a vote on a bill.  It‘s coming out of conference.  It doesn‘t have the public option.  Will you vote for it?

WEINER:  I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WEINER:  Probably not, I mean, because I—if it doesn‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose your vote counts.

WEINER:  If it doesn‘t control...

MATTHEWS:  Suppose your vote is decisive.

WEINER:  But the math is meaningful to me.  If, indeed, it turns out it doesn‘t save us any money, it keeps this cost going up and up, my citizens are not going to get any relief...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

WEINER:  ... the answer is a no.  And I think, frankly, a co-op plan won‘t do it.

MATTHEWS:  Suppose it‘s got four elements in it.  It‘s got individual mandates.  Everybody‘s got to join.  It‘s got subsidies for people who are working people.  It‘s got some kind of encouragement to business to insure people.  And it‘s got something to do with reform in terms of pre-existing conditions and portability.

WEINER:  And no...

MATTHEWS:  Will you vote for a bill like that?

WEINER:  And no cost containment so the costs keep going up and it bankrupts our government?  I can‘t vote for that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you this.  Is there any way to get a bill past the Congress except with 60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House?

WEINER:  Yes, I think we can do it with 51 in the Senate under reconciliation.

MATTHEWS:  But you would never be—what—what—you would be willing to blow up the Senate rules and basically push it through that?

WEINER:  What do you mean blow up the Senate rules?

Look, there‘s a reason that there‘s a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and Democratic presidency.  That middle block of Americans want us to get this done. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WEINER:  I don‘t think we‘re blowing up anything.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the Republican reaction would be if you ignored the rules and pushed through a bill...

WEINER:  You know, honestly, waiting for Republican senators to be pleased with this process...

MATTHEWS:  No, what will—what will they do?  What will they do?

WEINER:  ... is something I‘m not prepared to wait for.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When the war begins...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Look—look, we have been through goddamn wars in this country.  They‘re easy to start.  It‘s easy—it‘s tough to end them.  How do you stop a war that starts in the United States Senate right now because you jammed through a bill with less than 60 votes?

WEINER:  What do you mean jam, started a war?  What are you talking—we‘re trying to build...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What are the—what are the 40 Republicans going to do? 

What are they going to do?

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  Look, outside of this town, the American people really don‘t care about whether Chuck Grassley...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  ... for it or not.

MATTHEWS:  I care about—no, will the government—will the government still function if you try to jam this through with 51 votes? 

WEINER:  I think it will. 

MATTHEWS:  You think the Republicans will put up with it? 

WEINER:  Look, I think that people are going to—are going to be upset.  If it works, then everybody is going to be embracing it.

MATTHEWS:  I know that people...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... until the government shuts down.

WEINER:  No, no.  I‘m saying—I‘m saying structurally...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So you basically believe the Republicans will take it on the chin?

WEINER:  You know what?  You know what?  There was a lot of very hot language around the Medicare reform bill.

Look, whether or not—you know, I understand the idea the Senate has got to be the cooling sauce of our democracy.  And I‘m the House.  I get it.  I get it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re fighting a straw man.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  I do not buy...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  No, no, but I don‘t buy the idea that we have to build this reform on the foundation of Enzi and Grassley.  That‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  And Snowe. 

WEINER:  And Snowe.  That is not getting us anywhere. 

You know, I—the problem with what is going on at the White House right now is they‘re negotiating against themselves.  You‘re not going to the votes of these guys.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So you basically disagree with the president.  His strategy seems to be try to get some Republican support.  Ted Kennedy probably can‘t make the vote.  You are going to need 60.  That‘s their strategy.  You don‘t like that? 

WEINER:  I don‘t believe it‘s going to be successful.  I just don‘t believe...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They won‘t get to 60...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  I believe they are not going to get to 60 at anything really worth all that much.  And it‘s certainly not going to be what he‘s been going out and articulating we have all been fighting for, which is control costs...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

WEINER:  ... get support...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Have you talked to Rahm Emanuel about this? 

WEINER:  I don‘t think he‘s taking my calls right now.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think he disagrees with you. 

WEINER:  I suspect he does.

MATTHEWS:  I think he believes something is better than nothing.  And you disagree with that. 

WEINER:  No, no, I—first of all, in the abstract, something better than nothing.  I generally would go for the something.  But, remember, cost containment is such an important part of this.  We‘re bankrupting ourselves, bankrupting our economy. 

MATTHEWS:  And you believe the public option is the key to cost containment?

WEINER:  I believe that, frankly, single-payer is the real you do it. 

MATTHEWS:  But...

WEINER:  I don‘t even think public option gets you all the way there, but it at least gets you started.

MATTHEWS:  But it is essential?

WEINER:  And I don‘t believe that co-ops do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You believe it‘s essential to cost containment? 

WEINER:  I believe that there‘s nothing else in the bill that would do cost containment.

MATTHEWS:  So, you see an Armageddon struggle over this in the fall, I mean a real struggle?

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  ... Armageddon struggle.

I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Meaning, like, the liberals are going to say no way. 

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  Here‘s what I think happens.  I think that the president realizes—at some point here, a switch goes off.  And they say, you know what?  Why don‘t we push for what we actually think is going to be the best possible policy, and try to sell it to that middle that elected us?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you two liberal questions, all right?

WEINER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Should health care reform, the new bill that comes through, should it cover abortion? 

WEINER:  I believe...

MATTHEWS:  Should it cover abortion as part of this plan? 

WEINER:  I am—I am uncomfortable with the idea that someone who is less well-to-do should have less options on any health care option.

MATTHEWS:  No.  But this covers—this covers like four times the poverty level.

WEINER:  This is a weird one.  What goes on in the bill right now—and I heard your discussion with Chuck—what goes on is, it kind of preserves the status quo, which is weird...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WEINER:  ... which is a health plan can offer it if they want, so long as they figure out a way not to have federal dollars come in.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER:  My fundamental view is, we should not treat health care that someone who is well-to-do has more options than someone who is less...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, you don‘t like the Hyde amendment? 

WEINER:  I don‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you, well, should it cover illegal immigrants? 

WEINER:  No, the—the—the law...

MATTHEWS:  Should it?  I mean, under your goals, would it?

WEINER:  You know, the problem, under my goals—they‘re getting paid for now. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you would support covering them? 

WEINER:  No, I—I think that the whole paradigm has to be we should cover people that are getting hospital care in emergency rooms in a more efficient way.  I want to fix the immigration laws.

But none of the laws, you know, are—none of the bills that are being contemplated are going to allow anyone to sign up. 

But I ask you this question.  Someone who is undocumented walks into the Kings Highway—a hospital on Kings Highway, they‘re going to get care. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WEINER:  We‘re going to wind up paying for it.  So, we might think we are doing something by saying don‘t cover them under the bill, but we‘re really not.  We‘re going to wind up paying for them anyway.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  And you‘re an honest man.  And it‘s good to hear you. 

You‘re scaring the hell out of people on the right, but that‘s what you do.  You don‘t have to represent them. 

But we have to talk to everybody on this show.  Thank you, sir.

WEINER:  Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you so much for coming in during the recess. 

WEINER:  My pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  This is a working congressman, and it‘s August. 

Anthony Weiner, thank you. 

Up next—you were great on “JOE” this morning. 

Up next: tickling your funny bone.  Health care is getting beat up on the late-night comedy.  Wait until you see Jon Stewart.  The power of satire, wait until you hear it.  Stewart—well, he is something.  Wait until you see him. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s something very Alfred Hitchcock about that opening. 

Anyway, back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up, here is a good look at where the president now stands on health care.  And I mean it.  It‘s done in satire, but it has got the whole story.  The president said we need to have a government-run health care plan to compete with the private insurance companies.  That‘s what he said.  Now he says we don‘t. 

Here is Jon Stewart last night sending up this disconnect and how it‘s hurting the president. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Wait a second. 

What did you just say? 

(LAUGHTER)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The public option, whether we have it or we don‘t have it. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  No public option?  We still get to kill old people, though, right? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Mr. President, I can‘t tell if you‘re a Jedi 10 steps ahead of everything...

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  ... or if this whole health care thing is kicking your ass just a little bit. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Why is this so hard?  Why can‘t you guys just stay on message?  Remember the Bush team, a little bit of discipline, a little of repetition?  They sold us a war nobody wanted and nobody needed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The one choice we don‘t have is to do nothing. 

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  The one option that we do not have is to do nothing. 

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Doing nothing is no longer an option. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Must invade Iraq. 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Must invade Iraq. 

(APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  Salesmanship.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Those guys could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.  The Democrats, I don‘t even think could sells Eskimos (EXPLETIVE DELETED) they need.  Insulation. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, my only problem with that comparison by Jon Stewart is, is, I don‘t want to be governed by people who are willing to say anything to get their way. 

Next up: face time different times.  Bill and Hillary Clinton both met with President Obama this afternoon, but not at the same hour.  She, the secretary of state, had her meeting with the president at 1:30.  He, the former president and hero of Pyongyang, had his meeting with the president at 4:00 this afternoon.  Don‘t you wish you could listen in, A, when the two boys got together, and, B, when Hill and Bill compared notes over the phone afterwards? 

How was it for you, dear? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And time for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

The AARP has gone out on a bit of a limb by backing efforts for health care reform.  So, here is proof that no good deed goes unpunished.  How many seniors have canceled their membership in AARP this summer, specifically citing AARP‘s push for some sort of health care overhaul?

Sixty thousand.  Sixty thousand seniors have walked out on AARP this summer over reform—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Why are protesters bringing loaded guns to rallies outside presidential events?  They‘re bringing them to town meetings.  There they are in the holster.  What‘s going to keep those guns holstered?  That‘s my question. 

And this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rebounded today on some better-than-expected retail earnings and an analyst upgrade for American Express.  The Dow Jones industrials gained 82 points.  The S&P 500 is up almost 10 points.  And the Nasdaq added 25 points. 

Target shares finished more than 7 percent higher.  The discount retailer reported lower profits in the second quarter, but still managed to beat expectations.  Home Depot shares gained more than 3 percent.  Here again, profits were lower, but still not as low as predicted. 

Hewlett-Packard finished about 2 percent higher on the day.  The hardware-maker reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue just after the bell.

And American Express saw its shares gain more than 4 percent after two investment firms raised its rating, expecting it to outperform the market. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

When Obama, President Obama, gave his speech Monday at a Phoenix arena, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one man with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, were among the protesters outside. 

Just last week, when the president spoke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a man outside the event had a gun strapped to his leg.  And, in a separate incident in Portsmouth, a man was arrested for having a loaded unlicensed gun in his car near the school where Obama, the president, held the health care forum. 

Ronald Reagan is host of “The Ron Reagan Show” on Air America radio, and Alan Gottlieb founded the Second Amendment Foundation. 

Mr. Gottlieb, why would a person bring a gun to a presidential event?

ALAN GOTTLIEB, FOUNDER, THE SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION:  Well, I think the only legitimate reason to bring a gun would be for self-defense, and in which case it would be a lot better to carry it concealed with a license to do so, than open carry, the way they were doing it.

I think, quite honestly, politically, it‘s not a very astute decision to make.  While it‘s maybe legal, I think it doesn‘t help the pro-gun-rights cause when you see people do that. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is their motivation? 

GOTTLIEB:  I really think, Chris, that their motivation was that they know that President Obama is very anti-gun rights, and they‘re raising the in-your-face kind of thing, saying, it‘s my right, and I can do it. 

But I don‘t think it really sells well.  And I don‘t think it get much converts to our cause. 

MATTHEWS:  You really believe that?

GOTTLIEB:  Yes.  I...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re not just B.S.ing me here right now?  You really believe this is about gun rights and his position on gun rights, even though we have had Democratic presidents for years who take basically the same position he‘s taken on gun rights, and nobody has shown up at events carrying guns, ever?

GOTTLIEB:  Well, I don‘t think they have been quite as—there‘s no doubt that Obama‘s the most anti-gun-rights president we have had in the history of the United States, based on his past performance, his actions, his voting record, and statements that he‘s made. 

MATTHEWS:  And you—OK, I‘m going to go—I don‘t agree with you, that your right to—I think there‘s a more deep-seated reason here.  I think it has to do with people‘s sort of real ideologies involved here. 

Let me go to Ron Reagan.

Ron, it seems to me the problem we have had with presidents is that people who have come to events with guns have used them.  I‘m just going through a history here.  Your dad, of course, suffered from that -- 1860 --

1865 rather, Lincoln -- 1880, we elected Garfield.  He was killed -- 1900, McKinley.  Teddy Roosevelt was shot at.  I think the speech in his pocket saved his life.

FDR was shot at.  The mayor of Chicago was killed by that assassin attempt.  Harry Truman was attacked by Puerto Rican nationalists.  A Secret Service agent was killed defending him at the Blair House.  Gerald Ford was shot at twice.  Jack Kennedy was killed when he was shot.  And your dad was almost killed. 

Your thoughts on this subject.  Why do people bring guns to presidential events? 

RON REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I think it‘s a much bigger thing than Alan a suggesting.  I don‘t think it‘s about Second Amendment rights.  I don‘t think it‘s about health care or any of the specific issues here.

The future is coming, Chris, and many people are scared of the future.  This is one of those pivotal moments in our history, when you can sense that something is happening, something is going to change.  And many people get very frightened by that. 

Some people can hire lobbyists to push back against that change. 

Other people who don‘t have that capacity do things like carry guns around.  Alan is quite right.  The only—the only real reason to carry a loaded handgun or assault-style rifle anywhere, hunting, target practice, or you intend to kill someone in self-defense. 

Now, they‘re not going hunting.  They‘re not going for target practice.  So, who is it they that think they might have to kill?  Well, they‘re holding up signs that say—talking about the tree of liberty needing to be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.  Maybe that gives us a little hint there. 

MATTHEWS:  What are the rules of engagement, Mr. Gottlieb, for the people who bring guns.  In other words, under what circumstances would they use them in one of these crowded events?

GOTTLIEB:  Well, first of all, I would say you have to take a look, Chris, at what‘s legal and not.  And it changes all across the country.

MATTHEWS:  No.  What—under what circumstances would they use the guns? 

GOTTLIEB:  Oh, well, it could...

MATTHEWS:  In a public event like this, with people crowding around a president at a school somewhere, under what circumstances at such an event, which is where they‘re bringing the gun, would they use it?

GOTTLIEB:  Well, this is an outside rally area with people protesting on all sides of an issue.  And, sometimes, they get violent.  And, for self-protection, you may want to protect yourself against somebody that wants to do some violence to you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You really—are you talking—I wish I had you under sodium pentathol, sir.  Do you honestly believe that somebody brings these guns because they think somebody else in the crowd is going to kill them? 

GOTTLIEB:  But, Chris, Chris, I‘m saying that‘s the legitimate reason to do so. 

I‘m not saying...

MATTHEWS:  No, but is that the motive here? 

GOTTLIEB:  Wait.  Wait.  Chris, wait. 

No, I don‘t think that was the motive here.  And I said that up front.  I think the people were making a political statement.  I don‘t think it was the right place or time to do so. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  If they‘re making a political statement, the guns don‘t have to be loaded, Alan.  They could simply be empty strung on their back.

But these are loaded handguns and assault rifles—assault-style rifles. 

GOTTLIEB:  Well, you...

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  There‘s no reason for that unless you‘re intending to use them. 

GOTTLIEB:  Well, I can‘t say that I disagree with you.  I don‘t think it was an appropriate place to have those particular firearms. 

But let‘s be honest about it.  All these people were there legally, lawfully.  They didn‘t threaten anybody.  They were exercising a right that‘s legal in the state of Arizona. 

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  You can have a legal right.  That doesn‘t make it right.  A legal right doesn‘t necessarily make it right. 

(CROSSTALK)

GOTTLIEB:  It may not make it smart, but it was definitely right.  It was legal.  And that‘s why the police officers didn‘t arrest anybody.  They were all legal, and everybody was very well-behaved, as a matter of fact.

But, you might want to argue an armed society could be a polite society. 

REAGAN:  Until the shooting starts, yes.

GOTTLIEB:  But there was no shooting, was there, at any of these events? 

REAGAN:  Well, there could be.

And—and think about the wisdom of strapping an assault rifle, a loaded assault rifle, to your back in the midst of a crowd you can‘t control. 

GOTTLIEB:  Well, I...

REAGAN:  It‘s a little silly, isn‘t it?  Somebody could grab that gun and do—do God knows what with it.  It‘s really foolishness. 

GOTTLIEB:  I think so.  I think—I agree with you.  I think it‘s foolishness.

REAGAN:  Well, good.

GOTTLIEB:  I wouldn‘t do that.  At a rally like that, I might want to have my handgun that I‘m licensed to carry concealed on my person.  And no one would even know it‘s there.  It would be for my self-protection.  But I wouldn‘t be flaunting it.  It would, quite frankly, be safer for me because the element of surprise would now be on my side. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, sir, if you were at the book depository in Dallas in 1963, and you happened to walk through one of the book depository rooms upstairs, and you saw a man with a rifle, what would you do? 

GOTTLIEB:  Well, in that particular case, I would have had my handgun with me and I don‘t think we‘d have a dead president. 

MATTHEWS:  How would you have known that that person intended to use that rifle against the president? 

GOTTLIEB:  I think it—

MATTHEWS:  You say you have a right to carry these guns around—

GOTTLIEB:  Chris, come on, if you see a guy pointing a rifle out—

MATTHEWS:  Pointing is—no, I‘m saying five seconds before the pointing.  I‘m saying just having the gun in proximity to a presidential event.  You have no problem with that? 

GOTTLIEB:  There was no reason for that person to have a gun in the book depository, sitting by a window.  It‘s pretty obvious he was there for no good.  That‘s why people with firearms can help protect people and protect presidents—

MATTHEWS:  Now you‘re really getting loony.  Let me ask you this, if you‘re a Secret Service agent, and you‘re watching a crowd, and you‘re watching the people with guns, that are loaded, as Ron points out—do you have to have a special agent in each case watching each guy with a gun?  Because it seems like that person would require special attention.  What do you think? 

GOTTLIEB:  Well, Chris, this person—

(CROSS TALK) 

GOTTLIEB:  He wasn‘t near where the president was.  My guess is there were no Secret Service people there.  It was only local police doing crowd control, because it was nowhere near where the president was.  Let‘s be honest about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this.  If you were a Secret Service agent and you saw someone on the perimeter of one of the presidential events, would you keep your eye on the guy with the gun? 

GOTTLIEB:  Of course I would.  I mean, I‘d be stupid not to. 

MATTHEWS:  How many agents are we going to have to then?  For every guy carrying a gun, we need an agent. 

GOTTLIEB:  No, you don‘t.  Quite frankly, when you have it out in public like that, and everybody can see it, the odds are you aren‘t going to do anything.  It‘s when you can‘t see that you maybe have to worry, right? 

(CROSS TALK)

REAGAN:  Alan is speaking as somebody who has a little more experience than you do with the Secret Service.  If you‘ve got somebody with a loaded weapon at an event that the president is at, or any other politician, you‘re going to have security personnel watching them.  They‘re going to be watching them, when they should be watching something else. 

GOTTLIEB:  Wait, again you‘re right, but this wasn‘t an event where the president was at.  He was not out on the street where the people were. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me tell you, last week we have an event where now about a dozen people carrying guns showed up in Phoenix with the president, a dozen people.  That‘s a lot of people for Secret Service agents to keep an eye on. 

Let‘s kill it right now.  You say they brought the guns for symbol reasons, for display purposes only, right?  They didn‘t really bring them for self-protection.  They brought them for display. 

GOTTLIEB:  That‘s what it looked like. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Number two, but you see no reason otherwise for bringing them.  You don‘t really believe they brought them for self-protection then? 

GOTTLIEB:  No, I think they were making a political statement.  I don‘t think it was the right venue to do it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Thank you. 

REAGAN:  Political statement, they don‘t have to be loaded.  That‘s the bottom line there.  This is about anger.  This is about anger. 

(CROSS TALK)

REAGAN:  They were loaded.  This is about anger.  And anger and guns do not mix.  And that‘s what we‘re seeing at these rallies. 

MATTHEWS:  The fellow I had last week said you‘re stupid.  He had a gun.  He said it was loaded.  He challenged me, said you‘d be stupid—never carry a gun unless it is loaded.  He made fun of me for asking the question because he‘s a Second Amendment guy and he knows he has to carry a loaded gun, he told me.  

GOTTLIEB:  You‘re making an assumption they were all loaded for these people.  We don‘t know that.  We know for a fact one man‘s gun was loaded.  But we don‘t know they all were.  You‘re making a statement we don‘t really have any facts to back up. 

REAGAN:  Well, if they weren‘t loaded, Chris is right, there‘s no point in carrying it.  Then it‘s just a piece of metal that‘s worthless. 

GOTTLIEB:  Then it‘s a political statement, isn‘t it? 

REAGAN:  Is it?  Is it a political statement or is it something else, Alan? 

GOTTLIEB:  Ron, you just said—

MATTHEWS:  You know what—

REAGAN:  That‘s true but they did have it loaded, didn‘t they?  At least one did have it loaded. 

MATTHEWS:  The Second Amendment is clear, gentlemen.  The Second Amendment, as interpreted by this Supreme Court, is you have an individual right to bear arms.  My question is this; you have a right to jump around on a pogo stick.  You don‘t go to church on a pogo stick.  There‘s a right place and a right time.  We agree on that, all three of us. 

Thank you, Ron Reagan.  Thank you, Alan Gottlieb. 

Up next, remembering columnist, journalist and TV host Robert Novak, who died today at the age of 78.  We‘ll have some people—there‘s on old picture of “The Mclaughlin Group,” and an early picture of Bob Novak.  We will have a couple people on like Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift, who knew this guy when he got started.  HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Journalist and conservative columnist Robert Novak died earlier today after a one-year fight with cancer.  Rob Novak was a must-read columnist.  That‘s the best you could say about anyone in in business.  You want to read what they have to say and got to report.  The “Washington Post” ran Novak‘s column every day, even though he didn‘t exactly fit with that paper‘s high-toned sensibility. 

Novak was a tumbler.  He knew how to make trouble.  He new the best fights were intermural, usually somebody min the Republican mad at somebody else in the Republican, somebody who wanted to give in and raise taxes usually.  That was his special target, tax raisers.  Novak knew the gut element in journalism, the resentment people feel toward what he called the beautiful people, who Nixon called those liberal pinup boys. 

Bob Novak knew that gut of resentment, because, let‘s be honest, he shared it.  Bob Novak didn‘t follow fashion.  He hated on his own terms and he defended people with the same bite.  I think he defended some people like Dan Quayle simple because the liberal elite were attacking Dan Quayle.  All that made him, as a journalist and as a commentator, irresistible. 

MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and “Newsweek‘s” Eleanor Clift joins us.  They both knew him well.  I think I got a bit of him there.  Eleanor, you first, the Novak you introduced to television on the old days of the “Mclaughlin Group.”  Apparently you had a hand in bringing us Bob. 

ELEANOR CLIFT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Well, we shared offices on the same floor at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, a block from the White House.  Novak was instrumental in getting me on “The Mclaughlin Group.”  We‘d drive out there on Friday afternoons in his Lebaron convertible.  He‘d have his Chicago Cubs cap on.  I thought he was my buddy. 

Then you‘d arrive at the studio; the red light would go on; and he‘d be lunging at me, wagging his finger in my face, and saying Eleanor Clift and people of her ilk.  I don‘t think I even knew what ilk meant the first time of times. 

He loved the battle.  But he was a reporter.  And as somebody who was a reporter, I really admired.  He had sources everywhere, buried in every bureaucracy.  And he married one of Lyndon Johnson‘s secretaries, for goodness sakes.  So he had sources on the Democratic side as well as the Republican side.

MATTHEWS:  Pat, I don‘t think I missed a single episode of “The Mclaughlin Group.”  You and those guys were in your prime.  You‘re all about 30 years younger.  You and Bob and Jermando (ph) and Mort Kondrake, and Eleanor, whatever the latest nickname was. 

CLIFT:  Well-A-Nor. 

MATTHEWS:  Eleanor, Swellanor (ph).  There‘s the young, tough, Irish -

well, Scotts-Irish-Mick.  There he is.  You guys were quite a crowd. 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  It was a phenomenal thing.  It was balanced more to the right, the first one of those shows that ever was.  Novak was, frankly, the lead pony, if you will.  We took a measure one time.  Everybody‘s yelling how many words you got.  They did a word count.  Kondrake and Jermando and I got 400 or 500 words.  Novak had 1,100. 

Mclaughlin had 2,200 words. 

MATTHEWS:  Mclaughlin was still mad at Novak for being close enough. 

BUCHANAN:  That‘s right.  But, you know, your point is about—if you wanted to settle a score with someone, Chris, drop the good stuff on Novak. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that.  Eleanor, it seems like his columns were brilliant at getting to the heart of politics, which is usually intermurals.  The most visceral, the gut hatreds, in my experience with politics, is people within the same party not liking each other.  He always seemed to know how to get to that fight in the Republican party. 

CLIFT:  Right.  What he was good at was getting at the scuffling in the wheelhouse, and the State Department versus national security, the intermural battles within the White House.  It was dinner table gossip.  I don‘t know how well it related around the country, frankly.  But I think Washington dined out on his column. 

And liberals as well as conservatives would drop something into his column then.  It was a great place to get an airing.  But Novak himself was so pleased that he was kept on at the “Washington Post” because he recognized that his era was passing.  And he thought they could have let the old guy go.  But it was Fred Hyatt, the editorial page editor, who said, you always learn something from the Novak column.  As you said in your setup, that‘s a very high standard in a very noisy journalistic area. 

MATTHEWS:  He was a reporter to then end. 

BUCHANAN:  He was a reporter columnist.  There was always news in the column.  There was always the meeting that you didn‘t—people didn‘t want you to know about.  He had the information in the column as well as the opinion. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s get back to our regular fighting here, with Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift.  We carry on the fight.  I want to have a little left/right fight about this health care thing, because I think you‘re against it and Eleanor‘s for it.  Just guessing.  We‘ll be right back with more of MSNBC‘s HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift.  I think I‘m somewhere on the center-left on the issue of health care.  I want a system that makes health care accessible and reasonably affordable for people that don‘t have it now, and really starts a government commitment, which we can fill out over time, to get everybody insured, especially young, healthy people, get them all aboard. 

What do you think‘s going to happen between now and the end of the year?  Are we going to get a bill or not? 

CLIFT:  I think we‘re going to get a bill.  If the Democrats don‘t produce, I think the anger against them in the midterm elections next year will be quite strong.  And they would condemn Obama‘s presidency to failure, if he doesn‘t get this after all he‘s invested. 

Now, what he gets is up for grabs at this point.  I‘m waiting for the Barack Obama who the country voted for to show up in this battle.  And they view everything through the last campaign.  And they‘re saying, oh, he‘s a great closer.  There‘s still lots of fight left on this public option.  And if you use the analogy, I think we‘re in the Reverend Wright stage of the campaign right now with health care. 

But I think he can come back.  And I think the public option is not dead, yet. 

BUCHANAN:  I think the public option‘s dead but I do agree with Eleanor.  Look, Barack Obama‘s got to step in there himself and tell them, I can‘t get that through, you guys.  And we can‘t get that.  We can get this and this and this and this, some of the things you mentioned.  Now, put this together, and I want it on my desk by October 15th

This is what we‘ve got to go with.  We‘ve all tried the big thing. 

We‘re sorry we didn‘t get single payer and all that, but we didn‘t get it. 

This is what we got to get. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I think we‘re together.  He needs a core bill.  Let me ask you this, Eleanor.  Can he get the 60 votes in the Senate?  Or are you with Anthony Wiener, who was just on, who said, you don‘t need 60, just jam it through with 51 or 50? 

CLIFT:  I think there‘s—the danger there is it gets so pock marked and they can take out things that don‘t directly relate to budget.  But, you know, I think he‘ll have—if he can‘t get the 60, he‘ll go with the 51.  They‘ll getting some and they‘ll call it a victory.  And Republicans will say it‘s a failure and then they‘ll go home and sulk. 

(CROSS TALK)

CLIFT:  Even insurance reform is significant. 

BUCHANAN:  If they ram it through with 51 votes and try to do that, he‘ll split his party in half, tear the party apart, sink the Blue dogs and he may not even get it. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  I think he needs 60 and 218.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, Eleanor Clift on this sad night for friends of Bob Novak.

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  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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