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updated 9/8/2009 12:38:21 PM ET 2009-09-08T16:38:21

Guests: Lawrence O‘Donnell, Charles Cook, Anne Kornblut, Terry Jeffrey, Joan Walsh, Richard Trumka, Steve McMahon

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Big night.

Let‘s play HARDBALL. 

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: moment of truth. 

President Obama‘s speech before a joint session of Congress next week comes after a terrible summer of town hall meetings, conservative demagoguing on these health care reforms, and falling approving numbers—approval number.  He has proven he is mortal, the president has.  Now he needs to prove he knows how to get off the canvas when he is down. 

He needs to forget about working with the help of the Republican Party, which has decided to bring him down again and again.  And he has convince Democrats in Congress and the public at large that health care reform is most certainly better than the health care system we have as it is. 

Also, the man who is set to take over as head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, says the public option is essential to health care legislation.  So, is big labor going to walk out from health care reform?  And is the president going to lose the help of those people who helped elect him if he drops the public option in order to win over the moderates? 

Anyway, that‘s my question for Richard Trumka tonight. 

Meanwhile, the Obama White House needs to figure out how to confront the right-wing media machine when the president of the United States is called a socialist for trying to make a back-to-school speech to children.  And the White House doesn‘t know how to respond.  There is a problem there. 

When are we going to learn how to avoid being tackling dummies—when are they going to learn how to avoid being tackling dummies for the far right? 

Well, this summer of discontent is causing a lot of Democrats to worry that they will lose far more seats in next year‘s midterm elections than anyone imagined even a few months ago.  Charlie Cook, the best in the business, will survey the landscape in the “Politics Fix” tonight. 

And could it that be Cheney and Palin are going to be running mates in 2012?  And that‘s why some people think that could be the Democrats‘ actual dream opponent next time.  That‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight. 

We start right off the bat with President Obama‘s speech to the Congress next week. 

Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist, and Lawrence O‘Donnell is an MSNBC political analyst. 

Gentlemen, I want to start with Steve McMahon. 

The president speaks to the nation and to the Congress in a joint session next Wednesday night, lots of hoopla, a big audience, at least starting off that night.  They will begin to watch him. 

What does he need to do to convince enough Democrats in the country, enough independents in the country, to support health care, so that 218 member of the House of Representatives and perhaps 60 senators, all Democrats, potentially, can vote for his plan?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, the first thing he has to do is decide is whether or not he really needs 60 senators, because, if he does, he is going to have to move to the middle.  If he doesn‘t, he can move to the left. 

And, so, that‘s a critical consideration.  I know there are a lot of people who believe that reconciliation is a possibility.  Lawrence, who has work in the Senate longer than I have, knows that—that reconciliation is primarily for budget and finance issues.  And the question is whether you can do these kind of insurance reform in reconciliation. 

For most Americans, it is the insurance reforms that affect them.  They have health insurance, but they don‘t want to be denied for a preexisting condition, have to pay more if they get sick or get canceled if they lose their job.  And those are the things that most Americans care about. 

To most Americans, the public option is something that might be nice, but it is not something that they view as essential, even though the left right now views it as absolutely critical. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the problem is, Lawrence, isn‘t it, that his party has scattered?  You have got the left over there taking positions, hard positions, and you have moderates worried they can‘t sign on to much of anything. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  Exactly.  Nancy Pelosi has issued her veto threat.  She did that yesterday.  She said she is going to veto it if there is no public option. 

Now, all the evidence is that you can‘t get a public option through the Senate.  So we have now an impossible political formula between these two bodies. 

And, on reconciliation, the thing that is lost in this discussion about reconciliation is, reconciliation requires 50 votes, plus the vice president, for final passage only.  During the process of reconciliation on the Senate floor, there are countless votes that require 60 votes, because it requires to you waive the rules of reconciliation.  That‘s done constantly in every single reconciliation process that goes to the Senate floor. 

They can‘t ever—they can‘t think about going to the Senate floor without 60 votes, whether they‘re doing it in reconciliation or outside of reconciliation. 

MATTHEWS:  So, look, it seems to me, the consensus—certainly, that‘s my view.  What Lawrence says is my view.  I think they need to get 60 votes. 

If they need to be 60 votes in the Senate, and Pelosi says you are not going to have the kind of bill that will get 60 votes, he has got a party in disarray. 

MCMAHON:  He‘s got a party...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He has to bring his party together.  So, why is he going on national television? 

MCMAHON:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Why isn‘t he going to the Democratic Caucus on the Hill and say, we‘re not leaving this room?  I want to ask that to Lawrence in a minute. 

Why don‘t we all get in the room together, all the Democratic members of the Senate just House, get them all in one room together, and say, we‘re not leaving this room—start at 8:00 in the morning—until we have a bill we all can agree, because we have to all agree on it?

MCMAHON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  There must be 60 senators, assuming Massachusetts gets its act together, and it appoints a senator in the next couple weeks. 

MCMAHON:  There are two things going on here.  One is what is best for the president‘s brand.  And, remember, he the guy who was going to come to Washington to change the tone and to bring people together.  And—and he needs to reestablish that—that brand, if you will, for his own survival. 

And the second thing that has to happen is, Democrats to have decide whether or not they are going to let the left bring this bill down, because that‘s right now what‘s going on.  It‘s not going to be the right...

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  The Democrats decide—Nancy Pelosi is doing this. 

MCMAHON:  I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  She is not letting the left bring the party down.  She is taking it—by your definition, she is the party. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what she said—quote—“A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House.”

She is basically giving a bottom line to the president. 

MCMAHON:  And what the president is hearing is that a bill with a public option will not pass the Senate.  So, he has got to figure out whether he‘s going to let the Republicans bring this down because there is a public option or let the left bring it down because there is not. 

And I think he has got a greater ability to bring the left to his side than he has an ability to bring the right over.  And, frankly, I think, if he gives a speech where he says, the right wants to do nothing, and that‘s not an option, because it would be a disaster for the country, the left wants to do everything right now, and we can‘t...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s the problem, Lawrence, and you guys know this.  You get people elected.  Lawrence worked on the Hill.  I‘m glad we have all three of us who know what we‘re talking about, for once.

Let me tell you, here‘s the problem.  You have got half the Democratic Caucus, at least, that all they care about is primaries, and all they care about is primaries from people who are younger than them and people to their left, because, otherwise, they can‘t be beaten. 

The other half of the caucus, all they care about is general elections. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  So, they have got two parties here.  They don‘t have one party, do they, Lawrence?  You have the party that worries about general elections and the party that has never seen a general election. 

And the party that has never—the Brooklyns and the San Francisco party have no idea what a general election looks like.  They have never faced a Republican opponent.  They have to go to work every day with people from awful flyover country, like Missouri and places like that, that they would never go to. 

But those people are the people they have to go to if they want to run the Congress and be chairmen of committees and speakers of the House.  Would somebody please tell these people, they‘re not speaker of the House, they‘re not chairman of these committees unless they bring in these people they consider bumpkins into their caucus and actually respect them as equals?

Your thought, Lawrence.  That were my—those were my thoughts. 

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s exactly—that—no, that‘s exactly it, that the most valuable players in either party are those senators and congressmen who come from swing states and swing districts, who—they come from the places where they can possibly lose their seats. 

That‘s what‘s—that‘s what gets you a majority.  You don‘t get a—as you just said, you don‘t get a majority from the left or the right.  And, so, that‘s the dilemma that they‘re facing right here. 

But what you‘re seeing is the development of the notion that what could be—could come out of process is a bad bill. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  And, so, then, if you have what is considered a bad bill by certain Democrats, then they are voting against what they consider to be a bad bill. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

O‘DONNELL:  They‘re not—they‘re not being spoiled brats and saying, you know, my thing isn‘t in there; therefore, I‘m voting against it.

And in this kind of legislation, it is very easy for the bill...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

O‘DONNELL:  ... to get twisted into something that turns out to be bad.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they try to write a good bill that doesn‘t have the language they—here‘s the question.  If the ultimate goal is accessible, affordable health care for everybody, so that the millions of people that don‘t have health care get it some way, it may not necessarily be a public option. 

MCMAHON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It may be a regulated insurance industry. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they go that route, if they have to? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think there are a lot of people who want to go that route. 

And Lawrence is absolutely right.  That‘s the way a Democrat who opposes this bill is going to position it.  But the Democrats have an opportunity to position it so that a Republican would have to then defend a vote against making the denial of—this is a double negative, so it gets a little confusing. 

But, basically, you have a bill that could do just insurance reform, which would make denial of preexisting conditions illegal, that could guarantee coverage to everybody who wants it.  You couldn‘t get canceled if you‘re sick, and you wouldn‘t pay more if you were older or something else. 

You could put Republicans in a position where they have to vote against that bill by taking out the public option.  Right now, you‘re going to put Democrats in a position of voting again that bill if there is not a public option in it.  I like the first scenario a lot better than the second scenario for Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here‘s the speech problem.  Could it be that the president has to be, once again, elusive, if not deceptive? 

Lawrence, tough question, might he have to bait and switch, suggest he‘s for a public option to get the House to pass a bill; then, when he gets to conference, and he has to sell the compromise, he sells that to the House?  Lawrence, two-step.  One step, sell the public option.  Second step, dump it. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Luckily for him, it has been 16 years since Bill Clinton did exactly that to the House of Representatives on the BTU tax.  And so a lot of institutional memory is gone. 

But this is what could provoke a revolt in the House.  If Nancy Pelosi tries to go first, if she tries to force a vote before it is clear that the Senate is able to act, she may get a revolt, because she forced a vote on cap-and-trade before it was clear that the Senate was able to act.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  We now know the Senate is not able to act. 

And, so, last time around, when the Clinton bill was trying to get through, the House said, we will not vote until we see the Senate vote. 

MATTHEWS:  I see it.

O‘DONNELL:  The health care bill was not on the Senate floor.  It got destroyed, and the House never did vote. 

MATTHEWS:  So, this is an after-you situation, the reverse of an Alphonse and Gaston.  You go through the door first. 

O‘DONNELL:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  It seem to me the Senate has to indicate through its leadership that they‘re going to go to conference with something in the range of what the Democrats in the House want, or the Democrats in the House will not pass a bill. 

So, in other words, the Senate has to show, even if it is a fake, a head fake, they have got to make it look like they‘re about to do it, for the House to do it first. 

MCMAHON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the Senate is not going to do it first. 

MCMAHON:  Well, the Senate Health Committee has already done it. 

Lawrence is absolutely right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  The Health Committee has. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s the—let‘s get back—I have only got a couple minutes here, Steve.

MCMAHON:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the expert, communication.  Then Lawrence. 

What‘s the president got to do to—and why is he speaking to the American people on Wednesday night if the real market, the real target are the people on the Hill? 

MCMAHON:  I think it is about the Obama brand.  He basically has to lift this thing up and he has take it to a different plane.  He has to make a moral case.  He has to explain to people who have insurance why it is good for them.

And I think he has to basically be willing to triangulate both the left and the right, so that he can protect his brand.  And that‘s the best thing for the Democratic Party. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean protect his brand? 

MCMAHON:  Well, his brand is, he is the guy who was going to change the town, he was going to rise above politics, and bring people together. 

We‘re right back now where we were a year ago.  His approval ratings show it.  The partisanship in the country shows it.  He needs to lift this thing up.  And I think that‘s what he is going to do. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hard, though, because, Lawrence, you can bet that—well, I‘m going to propose something to you.  He has to say a couple of thing in the beginning of this speech Wednesday night that everybody in that chamber can agree on. 

We have a good health care situation in the country in terms of research, in terms of teaching hospitals, all good stuff.  We just got to get more distribution and more fairness.  He has got to say something, doesn‘t he, to get the Republican to applaud a couple of times, or else the middle won‘t go with him. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  And they will applaud on things like preexisting conditions, that easy stuff.

But what they will not applaud for and what every one of the Republicans will find very easy to vote against is any of the suggested methods of paying for any version of this bill, including the scaled-down bill. 

Once they kill the public option, as the Republicans probably will in the Senate...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

O‘DONNELL:  ... you are then going to see the attack on the employer mandate.  You are then going to see the attack on the new tax regimen, three new personal income top brackets that don‘t currently exist, an 8 percent tax on business that don‘t provide health insurance. 

Wait until we get to the tax argument.  That is going to make the public option argument look tiny compared to what the Republicans do with the tax argument. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  We‘re not even there yet. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re tough. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, who worked as staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, knows exactly what he‘s talking about, and Steve McMahon, who knows Congress, because he‘s elected a whole bunch of those people, thank you. 

Coming up—coming up, why are some conservatives so up in arms about President Obama‘s speech next week to schoolkids?  We‘re talking about the Tuesday speech, not even getting to the Wednesday speech.  And where were they when Republican presidents like Bush and Reagan, Bush Sr., spoke to children? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up:  Will the labor unions and the left wing accept a bill without a public option?  We will ask the incoming head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka—when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Obama‘s planned address to students next Tuesday has become front-page news even before he delivers it.  Here‘s just a sample of some of today‘s front pages from around the country. 

“The Minneapolis Star Tribune”: Parents Wary of Obama‘s Speech.”  North Carolina‘s “Raleigh News and Observer”: “President‘s Talk Alarm Parents.”  “The New York Times”: “Obama‘s Plan For School Talk Ignites a Revolt.”

A lot of this concern stems from a statement released by the chairman of the Florida Republican Party—we had him on last night—Jim Greer, in which he accused Obama of using the speech to spread his—quote—

“socialist ideology” and—quote—“liberal lies.”

I asked Mr. Greer last night about those charges.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Did you write this statement?  This statement said he‘s going to be a pied piper, in other words, take our kids away, we will never see them again.  You accused him of liberal propaganda.  You call them liberal lies. 

You have got lines in here like, this is—this is—this is propaganda.  Did you write this or some staffer of yours?  I think you have got to be accountable for your staffers, too. 

JIM GREER, CHAIRMAN, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY:  Well, Chris...

MATTHEWS:  Did you really write this yourself with a typewriter? 

GREER:  I think everybody should be accountable. 

And I think before...

MATTHEWS:  Did you write this with a typewriter, sir, Mr. Greer?  I think you‘re very impressive on the air.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Did you write this yourself, or did some staffer write it? 

GREER:  I had a lot to say about what was in it, and I approved it, ultimately, so it‘s my statement. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Is this another right-wing attempt to vilify Obama? 

Or is this a legitimate concern out there?

Joan Walsh is editor of Salon.  And Terry Jeffrey is editor of CNSNews.com, which stands for Cyber News Service.

Very state-of-the-art there, Terry.

What are your problems with the president addressing the schoolkids through—through the air on Tuesday morning?  Should the teachers decide to let the students watch? 

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE:  Well, I think the—the school district should decide, Chris. 

I don‘t have any problem with the president of the United States going out and giving a speech to school students and trying to inspire them to work hard and study and  apply themselves.  I think it would be great if he said they should learn the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the founding of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you on that, too. 

JEFFREY:  OK.  That‘s all good, although I think it would probably end up being meaningless to most of the students.

However, they went beyond this.  The Department of Education sent out to all these principals around the country and all these teachers recommendations about what they should do before and after the president‘s speech. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Read your bill of indictment here. 

JEFFREY:  OK.

Here‘s one thing they say.  And, remember, we‘re talking about pre-K through sixth-grade teachers, right?

MATTHEWS:  That would be sixth grade. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  Right.  Pre-K through sixth grade.  They say...

MATTHEWS:  Primary school.

JEFFREY:  The secretary of education is telling them this is what they should do.  “Teachers can build background knowledge about the president of the United States,” this president, “and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama.”

OK, now, we have just had 18 months of saturation media about this guy, Chris.  He‘s a cult of personality to the liberal media, quite frankly.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Joan—Joan Walsh...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  And you‘re going to make these poor school teachers have to read...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I am going to let Joan Walsh defend the president of the United States in this regard, should she choose to do so. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh, it is Friday afternoon.  There you go.  What do you make of the paper handout that went to accompany the president‘s speech next Tuesday on TV to the schoolkids? 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  You know what?  I‘m going to give—I‘m going to give Terry a point here. 

I think that that was overreaching.  And you and I have talked going back to last year that there sometimes is a tin ear in the people around Obama, where they—they do pay into this cult personality.  I don‘t believe that that‘s what Obama wants.  I don‘t think that that‘s what his support is about. 

I‘m not a cultist.  I criticize him, but I also admire him.  So, I‘m going to give Terry that.

But that‘s not what this is about, Chris.  I‘m sorry.  He—they took back those materials.  They said—they also dealt with another objection by saying, we will let you read the speech in advance. 

And everybody knows this is going to be a real stay-in-school, do-your-homework kind of speech.  So, this is another one of these crazy trumped-up right-wing...

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WALSH:  ... paranoid attacks on the president. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

WALSH:  I really don‘t understand it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Terry, next count, next charge.

JEFFREY:  Well, the first thing, by the way, is they did not take away that material.  I just downloaded this from the Education Department Web site before I came in.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the latest version.

JEFFREY:  This is the corrected version.

OK, second thing, now we go to seventh through 12th grade.  We‘re talking about high school kids, Chris, seniors in high school.  And this is what they say teachers should do to kids as late as senior year in high school. 

“Teachers may engage students in short readings.  Teacher may post in large print around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from President Obama‘s speeches on education.”

Now, give me a break.  First of all, President Obama has a very left-wing view of education.  My views on education...

WALSH:  No, he doesn‘t. 

JEFFREY:  ... are quite contrary views.

WALSH:  No, he doesn‘t, Terry. 

JEFFREY:  Well, for one thing, he stopped the school choice program here in the District of Columbia, but he send his kids to the most expensive school in the District of Columbia, rather than to the local public schools that minority kids in this town that have low incomes...

WALSH:  That‘s not a left-wing position. 

JEFFREY:  ... are forced to go to.

Not only that.  Here‘s another left-wing position from one of his education speeches.  He argues...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re talking about the opportunity scholarships, which he basically sunsetted.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  He—he got—he got rid of them.

WALSH:  Right. 

JEFFREY:  But here‘s another left...

MATTHEWS:  He sunsetted them.

JEFFREY:  OK.  But when he was campaigning...

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, I‘m with you on that one. 

JEFFREY:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  I think he should have kept them. 

JEFFREY:  Of course he should have. 

WALSH:  And I disagree, but I understand your point of view.

JEFFREY:  ... should have an opportunity...

MATTHEWS:  I think these African-American kids need a break.

WALSH:  But that‘s not what we‘re talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... these squalor schools they go to, and it‘s chance to...

WALSH:  That‘s not...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry, Joan.  It‘s a chance for kids who have ambition...

JEFFREY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... African-American kids, to get a break to go to local parochial schools (INAUDIBLE) not big rich kids‘ schools, where they can go to a local school that‘s not in their hellhole neighborhood they have to go to school in, where they‘re danger—endangered every day.  They get a chance to study and to get ahead and to go college, and they otherwise wouldn‘t get that shot.  And I‘m all for Opportunity Scholarships.

OK.  I‘m sorry.

JEFFREY:  OK.  And by the way, the National Center for Education...

MATTHEWS:  I know the NEA doesn‘t like it.  We have Trumka on.  I can argue about it.  I know the (INAUDIBLE) doesn‘t like it because...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... teachers unions don‘t like anybody...

WALSH:  And I‘m not—I‘m not an NEA shill...

MATTHEWS:  ... breaking their monopoly!

WALSH:  ... but that‘s not what we‘re here to talk about...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  ... and that‘s not why these people are opposing him.  It‘s ridiculous.

JEFFREY:  He used Department of Education, using federal tax dollars, to ask high schools around the country to post excerpts from his speeches on education, OK?  One speech, President Obama gave (INAUDIBLE) education called for 0-to-5 education program, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

JEFFREY:  What that talks about is making sure that every kid, from the moment they‘re born...

MATTHEWS:  Well, wait a minute.  But your knock...

JEFFREY:  Wait...

MATTHEWS:  I want to—I got to get Joan in.  You‘ve been dominating here.  Your knock is the president shouldn‘t speak to kids on Tuesday?  Is that your problem?

JEFFREY:  No, no.  I totally...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  Is that your problem?

JEFFREY:  No, no, no.

MATTHEWS:  OK, so it‘s OK with you if he speaks to the kids on Tuesday.

JEFFREY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK, Great.  Go ahead, Joan.  It‘s all right with him if the president speaks.  He doesn‘t like the material, the paraphernalia that‘s handed out by these bureaucrats.  Go ahead.

WALSH:  Well, people are free not to use it...

JEFFREY:  Propaganda!

WALSH:  ... and they pulled—you know, they pulled back a lot of what they originally sent out.  They apologized.  A lot of it was inappropriate.  But some of it—I mean, the president does have strong views on education, and most of them, Terry, come down to things that I would think you and I agree on.  He gets flak from some people in the black community.  Remember Jesse Jackson wanted to cut his you-know-what off because he does preach a tough love—he does preach a tough-love, pull yourself up by your bootstraps approach to kids.

He doesn‘t—and not just talking to black kids.  We have a problem in our country where kids are not working hard enough, kids of all races, and he gets into that.  He gets into their faces and he tells them that they are responsible for taking advantage of all the opportunities that they have.  And even the poorest kids have opportunities in this country.  That‘s his message.  That‘s what I, as a parent and as an Obama voter and as an American, very fervently want our kids to hear.

And this trumped-up business about what they might put up on the wall is secondary.  And you‘ve got to the point, Chris—you got to the point.  They have vilified this man from day one.  They have whipped up kind of a hysteria about him so that he‘s not even human, and they will not extend this man the respect that every single president has gotten.  I can‘t imagine...

MATTHEWS:  You know what my problem, Joan, is—you‘re right.  You‘re right.  And the trouble I have in this job, in my nature, is that even though I know the motive behind a lot of this crap being thrown at the president has to do with who he is, where he comes from, his background, his politics, his—background—I‘ll just say it that way...

WALSH:  Yes, background.

MATTHEWS:  ... a lot of it is based up that in terms of motive.  But occasionally, the clock is right twice a day.  And when they are right about a couple of facts, I give them the score, like you did as we started off tonight.  That‘s the nature of my job.  Your last word.

JEFFREY:  (INAUDIBLE) more profound question here...

MATTHEWS:  But I think you‘re making a mountain out of a molehill because you don‘t have any problem with this president being Bill Cosby, kicking these kids in the butt, telling the parents to do their job.

JEFFREY:  Well, let—let...

MATTHEWS:  You have no problem with that.  But then you‘re arguing about the paperwork...

JEFFREY:  No, no, no!

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  I think there‘s a bigger architectural issue, and briefly, this is what it is.  C.S. Lewis paraphrasing Aristotle in “Men Without Chess (ph)” said, An education should teach a child to love what‘s right and hate what‘s wrong.  There‘s a culture war going on in this country that addresses every issue, from whether you kill an unborn child to whether people of the same sex...

MATTHEWS:  OK, (INAUDIBLE) onto that.

JEFFREY:  ... should marry.

WALSH:  That‘s not what he is going to talk about.

JEFFREY:  President Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY:  Wait a minute!  Schools are all about teaching kids what‘s right and wrong, and there‘s many people in this country who fear that the public schools are teaching a value system that is wrong, that is alien from the one they‘re trying to teach at home.  President Obama is on the other side of that culture war from many of us!

WALSH:  He‘s our president, Terry!

JEFFREY:  We don‘t want his views...

WALSH:  He‘s our president...

JEFFREY:  We don‘t want his values...

WALSH:  ... and he was elected with 54 percent of the vote!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Stop.  Do you honestly believe the president of the United States is going to talk to pre-K kids and grade school and high school and middle school kids about abortion?

JEFFREY:  No, he‘s not going to...

MATTHEWS:  Then what are you talking about?

JEFFREY:  He‘s not going to do that, but he‘s—he‘s pushing his education agenda, which includes, Chris, the 0-to-5 program that says the federal government‘s going to get...

WALSH:  Oh, please, stop it!

JEFFREY:  ... involved in education—wait a minute!

WALSH:  Zero-to-five is about...

JEFFREY:  Let me finish my point!

WALSH:  Zero-to-five is about giving low-income kids, babies, the kind of support that kids in middle class and upper middle class families get from day one.  That‘s what it‘s about.  It‘s not about sex education and all that crap you guys tried to throw at him!  This is just garbage, and it has to stop!

MATTHEWS:  Why are we talking about abortion?

JEFFREY:  Well, we—because...

MATTHEWS:  Why is abortion relevant to this conversation?

JEFFREY:  From the point that C.S. Lewis made.  In education, teach a child...

WALSH:  I‘m a big C.S. Lewis fan, may I add!

JEFFREY:  ... to love what‘s right, hate what‘s wrong, all right?

MATTHEWS:  So you‘re saying public schools should teach (INAUDIBLE) abortion‘s wrong.

JEFFREY:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  It should teach that.

JEFFREY:  Public schools should teach...

WALSH:  The majority of country wants abortion legal.

JEFFREY:  Can I complete my thought?  Yes.  Absolutely.  What we should teach kids, for example, is the principle of the Declaration of Independence that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, including the right to life!

MATTHEWS:  So you think public schools...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... teach opposition to abortion.  Should they teach that it should be illegal?

JEFFREY:  I think that public schools should teach that it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being.

MATTHEWS:  They should teach that.

JEFFREY:  Yes, that it‘s always wrong...

WALSH:  Terry, these are matters...

JEFFREY:  ... to kill an innocent human being!

WALSH:  ... are deep personal moral...

JEFFREY:  Now, Chris, if you want to say...

WALSH:  ... decision.

JEFFREY:  ... that an unborn child is not...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I‘m just wondering how far you think teaching should go in terms of...

JEFFREY:  Well, it has...

MATTHEWS:  ... public debate over these matters.

JEFFREY:  It‘s going to teach them one way or the other.  Right now, effectively, public schools in general in this country, Chris, are advancing a value system that‘s alien to (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK...

JEFFREY:  ... value system...

WALSH:  That‘s ridiculous!

JEFFREY:  ... the United States...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Myself daughter went to a wonderful public school.  Then she went to a wonderful Catholic school.  She‘s at Fordham University right now, and there‘s almost no difference in what she was taught.  We love the values of the Catholic school system, but the public school was terrific.  And Terry, yours is the fringe point of view, and I will not have it inflicted on my daughter...

JEFFREY:  There‘s a culture war...

WALSH:  ... and my community!

JEFFREY:  ... in this country...

WALSH:  And you‘re losing, my friend!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... a good ending for this discussion.  I think...

WALSH:  He‘s our president!

MATTHEWS:  ... you‘re waging the culture war tonight, and I think the president will not talk about those issues on Tuesday morning...

WALSH:  He‘s our president!

MATTHEWS:  ... when he addresses the students.

JEFFREY:  Of course he won‘t.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to talk about getting off your butt and doing your homework and taking personal responsibility...

WALSH:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  ... and young people, and parents doing the same.  And I‘m telling you, you‘re going to agree with every word he says on Tuesday morning, but—you can argue about abortion any time you want.

WALSH:  If you listen.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you- if you listen.  Thank you, Joan.  Happy Friday, Joan Walsh.  Happy Friday, Terry Jeffrey.

WALSH:  Happy Friday.

MATTHEWS:  Up next—you were right on a couple of points tonight. 

Walk away on that.

Would you believe there‘s talk of a Dick Cheney presidential run in 2010 -- 2012 -- I guess you have to get the year right -- 2021 with Sarah Palin as his running mate?  That would be one great ticket from certain perspectives.  The late night comics tee off that next in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.  It‘s pronounced “Cheeney,” by the way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”  First up, all it took was a ting (ph) of buzz to rev up Dave Letterman.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT”:  Dick Cheney—here‘s a guy—you know, for eight years, all we knew about Dick Cheney was that he shot a guy in the face.  That‘s all we knew.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Oh, man, if this happens, I‘ll be so happy.  In 2012, the Republicans are now talking about the presidential ticket, Dick Cheney, and running as vice president, Sarah Palin.  Huh?  Talk about your dream ticket, ladies and gentlemen!

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Oh, buddy, the comedy recession is over!  I mean, come on. 

Talk about your shotgun marriage!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I assume Dave Letterman‘s talking about it being a dream ticket for the Democrats to run against.

Anyway, now the moral to this.  Next item is: Someone‘s always taping.  Video of Congressman Baron Hill‘s Indiana town hall popped up on YouTube today.  Here‘s the congressman being asked by a journalism student why his office would not let cameras openly film the event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just—why can‘t I film this?  Isn‘t this my right?

(APPLAUSE, CHEERS)

REP. BARON HILL (D), INDIANA:  Well, this is my town hall meeting and I set the rules, and I‘ve had these rules...

(BOOS)

HILL:  Let me repeat that one more time.  This is my town hall meeting for you...

(BOOS)

HILL:  ... and you‘re not going to tell me how to run my congressional office.  Now, the reason why I don‘t allow filming is because usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You see the problem?  We‘re watching the YouTube!  Well, anyway, so much for getting permission.  As this video proves, it‘s very hard these days to dictate what‘s in and what‘s out.

And finally, according to Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, why does she get so much criticism from the left?  Well, they don‘t want her to be president.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  With women politicians, they want to make sure no women—no woman becomes president before a Democrat woman.  And so they‘re doing everything they can to, I think, sabotage women like Sarah Palin, perhaps women like myself or similarly situated women, to make sure that we don‘t have a prominent national voice.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What an odd use of the human mind.  And this is from a lawmaker who said we should investigate—we in the media investigate Democratic members of Congress for their loyalty to the country.  We should be doing that.

Time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”  If Republicans want to take control of the House of Representatives, they‘d have to pick up 41 seats during next year‘s mid-terms.  A while back, that might have seemed like a long shot.  No more.  The on-line traders over at Dublin-based Intrade.com have put chances of a Republican 2010 House takeover at 30 percent, one third almost.  And guess what?  Those odds have been rising all summer.  Chances that Republicans take back the House are up to one in three, 30 percent, tonight‘s “Big Number.”

Up next: As President Obama gets ready to give Congress specifics about health care reform, will the left in the party and the unions go for a plan that doesn‘t have a public option?  That‘s the big question.  We‘re going to get answers from the man who‘s set to take over as head of the labor movement, head of the AFL-CIO.  Richard Trumka‘s coming to sit in that chair in one minute.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CNBC MARKET WRAP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  President Obama‘s preparing to give Congress details about what he wants on health care reform.  It‘s going to be a big speech to a joint session next Wednesday night.  But the largest labor union in the country, the AFL-CIO has already warned Democrats that they‘ll pay a political price if they abandon the public option.

Richard Trumka is secretary/treasurer of the AFL-CIO and is expected to become the president of the AFL-CIO within a matter of weeks.  Thank you, Mr. Trumka.  You‘re a great guy.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO SECRETARY/TREASURER:  Thanks for having me.

MATTHEWS:  We look at a situation in this country which is terrible for the working family.  We have an unemployment rate as of today of 9.7. 

It‘s gone up over 10.  The mayor of Philadelphia, I was just talking to him

Philadelphia is about to face thousands of layoffs because the state legislature will not deal with the problem they have of trying to raise some revenue.  The country is really on the skillet right now.  And at this very time of tension and bad times, you are insisting on your version of the health care bill, at the risk the president will get nothing.  Why are you playing it so tough?

TRUMKA:  Well, first of all, what we want is health care reform.  There‘s no sense in getting a bill that doesn‘t fix the problem.  We have a crisis.  Every 30 seconds in this country, somebody declares bankruptcy because of medical bills.  Ninety-four percent of the markets, health insurance markets, in this country are classified as “highly concentrated.”  That means we have to have some way of breaking the stranglehold that those insurance company have over the health care market.  The best way to do that is to have some competition for them.  It will make them more efficient.  It‘ll make them more innovative, and we‘ll get that better deal.  And it‘ll give us someplace to walk.  Look, right now...

MATTHEWS:  When did you come up with this?  When did this become a hard and fast rule for labor?  When did you decide that unless you have a public option to private enterprise, we can‘t perform in this country, we can‘t deliver service without a public—when did you come up with this?

TRUMKA:  Here‘s what we—all along...

MATTHEWS:  What, last week, last month?

TRUMKA:  No, forever we‘ve said we want health insurance reform.  It doesn‘t work in this country.  And whenever the bill kept getting, or the debate kept getting narrowed down, they came down to the point where if you take a public option out, you don‘t have health insurance reform.  You won‘t have anything that will keep the insurance companies honest and give everybody a chance to walk.

Look, right now, take—there is just a study out in California.  Insurance companies are denying over 30 percent of the claims that come to them.  So your doctor prescribes something for you, they say no.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

TRUMKA:  The insurance company says, No, we won‘t pay for it.  You have nowhere to go.  With the public option, you have leverage on them.  You can walk with your feet.  You can vote with your feet.  It‘s a chance to break the stranglehold that they have on 94 percent of the insurance markets in this country.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Can you pass a bill like that? 

TRUMKA:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  How? 

TRUMKA:  We‘re working at it. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, where are you going to get the votes in the Senate?

TRUMKA:  Well, I think the president coming out helps us. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think you can get 60 votes in the Senate? 

TRUMKA:  I do. 

MATTHEWS:  Where?  Name the Republicans.  Name one Republican. 

TRUMKA:  Snowe. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Name another one. 

TRUMKA:  Well, we don‘t need another one, do we? 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, so you get every single Democrat to support the public option, even though most, up to 5 or 10 percent of the Senate is saying they are not going to do that. 

TRUMKA:  Well, we‘re going to help them do the right thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Kent Conrad, the head of the Budget Committee, said he can‘t do it, can‘t do it. 

TRUMKA:  Well, we‘re going to help him do the right thing. 

MATTHEWS:  What, are you going to pummel him?  What are you going to do to make it happen?  These guys say they can‘t do it. 

TRUMKA:  We‘re going to keep—they can do it.  They choose not to do it.  That‘s what we‘ve had in health care across the country for 25 years.  They keep saying, we can‘t do it.  They can.  They choose not to.  It is time for them to keep their promise to the American public.  They said.

MATTHEWS:  These fellows and women represent states.

TRUMKA:  . they would achieve health insurance reform.

MATTHEWS:  . states that don‘t even—have right to work laws.

TRUMKA:  . it‘s time for them to keep their promise.

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve got people representing states like Louisiana, Arkansas, there are a lot of states.

TRUMKA:  So what?

MATTHEWS:  . that have Democratic senators.

TRUMKA:  It doesn‘t matter.

MATTHEWS:  . who have a hard time making these liberal positions. 

TRUMKA:  It doesn‘t—it isn‘t a liberal position. 

MATTHEWS:  It isn‘t?

TRUMKA:  This is supported by Republicans, independents, and Democrats.  Look at the support for it.  Now they came out and tried to muck it up and tell lies about it and do everything they could to destroy it.  But as we get the facts out to them, the support is growing.  And we.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Imagine you‘re Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and you‘ve watched for the last couple of elections the Republicans sweep your state by double digit—double, double digit.  And you‘re now going back to your state and saying, I‘m voting for the labor position on health care. 

TRUMKA:  Well, that‘s.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m going all the way over that bar. 

TRUMKA:  It isn‘t just labor position.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Would you rather have nothing? 

TRUMKA:  . and you know better than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you rather have nothing? 

TRUMKA:  You know better than that.

MATTHEWS:  Would you rather have nothing?

TRUMKA:  Nothing or what?  A bill that works. 

MATTHEWS:  Nothing or a bill that has a trigger in it to bring in a public option if necessary. 

TRUMKA:  You can make an argument that if you‘re not breaking the

stranglehold of those insurance companies, you‘re getting nothing, it won‘t

work

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Olympia Snowe, the Republican you mentioned as the 60th vote, and perhaps necessary vote.  Perhaps, depending on the procedure they follow.  She said she needs to have a trigger. 

In other words, there can‘t be a public option right away.  But if the insurance companies do what you say they‘ll do, there will be a public option. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMKA:  I‘d like to see.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Can you live with that? 

TRUMKA:  No—I don‘t know the answer to that.  Because I don‘t know the details of it.  What we‘ve said is, show us a way to break the stranglehold that those insurance companies now have on 94 percent of the insurance markets in our country, and we‘ll take a look at it. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever think about the fact that we get gas, we get electricity from private sector people but they‘re public utilities.  And they‘re completely controlled by the local governments.  Why don‘t we do something like that with insurance companies?  Just make them public utilities.  Why don‘t we do it?  We can‘t screw people, you‘ve got to deliver.

TRUMKA:  We would consider it.

MATTHEWS:  I think so.  I wish we would get to—I‘m with you on the bottom line.  I worry about the politics of this, Richard, because I worry that even though you have got big labor behind you, and you‘ve got a lot of strength out there with these Democratic members, that we find ourselves in around Halloween or Thanksgiving, and you can‘t get a bill through the House anymore because they don‘t think the Senate bill is good enough. 

TRUMKA:  The House?

MATTHEWS:  Because the Senate bill is not good enough.  You won‘t even get the first House to pass it because they‘re looking at the Senate.  And we‘re going to have a locked box here, like in a traffic jam, where nobody is getting through it and Republicans are in heaven because the party that‘s against the president, and wants him to fail, will be ecstatic and laughing at the Democrats. 

They‘ll be laughing at Nancy Pelosi and you, you played, you guys played hard guy, the president went down.  Who won?  They won. 

TRUMKA:  Well, let me make a.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Bill Clinton is talking.  I‘m not talking.  Did you hear what Bill Clinton said? 

TRUMKA:  No, I didn‘t. 

MATTHEWS:  If you don‘t have a bill, you lose. 

TRUMKA:  You lose what? 

MATTHEWS:  You lose—you lose politically. 

TRUMKA:  Well, I think there is a lot of truth to that.  I think there is.  But if you have a bill that doesn‘t work, I think the American public loses.  One of us every 30 seconds declares bankruptcy because of those health care bills.  We have to have something that changes it and breaks the stranglehold that the insurance companies have on this country right now. 

That‘s what the American public wants and I think that‘s what they‘re going to get.  You‘re going to get a great bill out of the House bill. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you in spirit.  I love what you‘re trying to do.  I think the American people deserve health care, accessible, affordable, for every American.  I love the idea.  And I think even a lot of Republicans—or some of them buy the principle.  We‘ll see how they vote next.

TRUMKA:  We‘ll see if they put their money where their mouth is. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s see if they applaud next Wednesday night. 

Anyway, Richard Trumka, good luck on your election.  It‘s going to be a close one.  It‘s going to be a real nail-biter for you.  Anyway, congratulations, probably.  Anyway, probably the next president of the AFL-CIO, which is an honorable position in the tradition of George Meany and Gompers, the big guys. 

And you can cut through the confusion of the health care debate on msnbc.com and our new special guide to health care called “Dose of Reality.” 

Up next, the next year‘s mid-term elections, are the Democrats facing the year of the angry white senior?  The numbers don‘t look good among people over 65.  By the way, they have health care.  So they‘re going to be a problem for the Democrats it looks like.  We‘re going to look at the older voter and how they‘re going to vote, because they always vote, up in the 2010 election.     

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, it‘s a big week next week for President Obama. 

Can he beat back Republicans who criticize him for talking to school kids?  And can he unite his party on health care reform?  The president‘s fix—actually, “The Politics Fix” is the president‘s fix, coming back on HARDBALL when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  It‘s time for “The Politics Fix.” And it is Friday.  We have got The Washington Post‘s Anne Kornblut with us, and Charlie Cook, who is editor and publisher of “The Cook Report,” and an MSNBC—actually, he‘s an NBC political analyst.

Let‘s look at the latest Gallup poll right now.  It is interesting because it shows that the Democrats now in party identification are only up 45 to 40 right now.  Back in January, they were up 52-35. 

Charlie, the Democratic Party is not in commanding position anymore. 

CHARLES COOK, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  When you see the party ID advantage go from 17 points in January to 5 points, that‘s a heck of a drop.  And then these Gallup numbers, it‘s like 30,000 interviews every single month.  And the thing is, party ID is a lagging indicator.  And it means that something systemic. 

I mean, if this were just the recession.

MATTHEWS:  So people were saying, I am a Republican now? 

COOK:  Well, what they are saying is, is you‘ve got independents who said they lean to the Democratic side now saying they lean to the Republican side.  You‘ve had some seepage down.  Republicans haven‘t really moved up.  It‘s moving out of the Democratic column into independent, and a little bit of independent towards leaning Republican. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve been working on your book, which we can‘t wait to sell here, of course, you‘re a great person, Anne Kornblut.  But something has gone wrong this summer.  It‘s like the president has been out of it?  His party has been chaotic.  And sometimes it looks like the party would rather fight than win. 

ANNE KORNBLUT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, look, it‘s a couple of things.  One of these points here is it just simply being in power.  Any party in power is going to have a opposition party that looks better because they aren‘t responsible for getting anything done. 

Another part of it is that the president‘s personal popularity was never going to be able to sustain him with the party.  They are the party in power.  He was never going to be able to counterbalance Congress all that much.  And as Charlie was saying, you‘re not seeing a similar swing on the Republican side. 

It‘s not that people are suddenly rushing to the Republican Party. 

There‘s not some big Republican movement that is popular, it‘s that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right.  But people, according to this poll we were just looking at, are willing now to say they lean Republican.  That means they are about to vote Republican. 

KORNBLUT:  Right.  But it‘s I think a few things.  It‘s a soft swing.  So it‘s not irreversible.  It‘s not unsalvageable for the Democrats.  But I think what is so stark is the drop from what we saw last November and January. 

MATTHEWS:  I think if you have the double whammy—if you have Virginia and  New Jersey bounce, the governor, Democratic candidates bounced out there in those two states, I think that will be another big part. 

COOK:  The other thing in those mid-term elections are about venting spleens. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COOK:  I mean, it‘s about anger and it‘s about intensity.  And all of the intensity that Democrats had in ‘06 and ‘08, gone. 

MATTHEWS:  So when the Democrats voted in the last two elections because they hated the Iraq War and then hated the economy, and then... 

COOK:  And they hated President Bush. 

MATTHEWS:  And they hated President Bush—well, OK, they didn‘t like him.  And then now they hate—what‘s—they hate this economy?  The unemployment rate is 9.7 tonight.  They don‘t like—they‘re scared of the health care situation.  Let me ask you about the older voters, because you‘ve been writing about it. 

COOK:  Actually, they.

MATTHEWS:  Here, I‘ll quote it for you, let‘s put it this way.  Here‘s what Charlie‘s team reports, quote: “Put simply, older voters dominate midterm elections and have consistently been Obama‘s weakest age group.  Unlike Bill Clinton‘s gender gap, Obama‘s generation gap complicates Democrats‘ midterm math substantially.  There‘s little discernible variation in gender shares of the electorate from midterm to presidential years, but midterm elections typically skew older and whiter than those in presidential years.” 

So the older white voter is going to dominate the ballot box come next November. 

COOK:  This is—yes, was written by colleague, David Wasserman, our

house editor.  And I think it‘s spot-on because you do have a

disproportionate—I mean, a lot of sort of occasional voters voted that -

younger voters voted midterm—I mean, voted presidential years.  But in presidential—in midterm years, turnout goes way down, young people stay home, old people go up in big numbers. 

And the thing is, they are scared about the role of government.  You know, it‘s not that they care about the president of General Motors getting fired.  It‘s that the federal government fired him.  They have very doubts about the ability of government to effectively, confidently do anything. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll be right back with Anne Kornblut and Charlie Cook.  For more about “The Politics Fix,” and these two big dates coming up, Tuesday and Wednesday, the president speaks to kids on Tuesday and to us on Wednesday. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m back with Anne and Charlie.  Let‘s talk about these two big issues next Tuesday.  You first, Anne.  The president is getting grief for talking to school kids on Tuesday because a couple of bonehead bureaucrats over at the Department of Education are putting out these missives about how to handle the thing and basically build up the president. 

KORNBLUT:  Well, and the White House, of course, changed some of the language in their curriculum advice to teachers, saying that instead of having kids write about how they could support the president, they should talk about how they can further their own ideas and goals. 

So the White House, I think, backing down a little bit added some ammunition to the fire.  But he‘s now essentially coming under attack for talking to school kids about not dropping out of school.  And from everything we‘re hearing, it‘s not going to be a political speech.  It‘s going to be a school speech. 

MATTHEWS:  They treat him like he‘s some kind of molester coming in to the building—seriously, they are treating him like he‘s dangerous, like he‘s the pied piper, he‘s going to lead the kids off a cliff somewhere. 

He is personally dangerous.  The lies that have been used, by the way, are unbelievable, socialists, you know, all of this, lies, they‘re accusing him of going into the kids and using them against their parents. 

COOK:  But you know, I mean, as Anne‘s paper, The Post, pointed out this morning, when George H.W. Bush wanted to speak to schools and the same thing, Democrats attacked him.  So I mean, a lot of this is just partisan stuff that frankly I tune out.

MATTHEWS:  A little rougher than this—come on, a little rougher this time.  It‘s ad hominem.  It‘s about him. 

COOK:  Well, yes—no, I mean, look, yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

COOK:  But the thing is, everything is edgier now. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Let me ask you about the Wednesday night.  Is there any way he can square—you remember when we used to simultaneous equations?  You have to make them all agree?  You know, X and Y equal X and Y. 

He has to get the liberals happy enough to like him still and applaud him like mad, the Barney Franks, the Anthony Weiners, the Nancy Pelosis.  He has got to get the moderates like Claire McCaskill, who have to deal with the constituents, just as much as Brooklyn does, and he has to do it all in one night while he‘s speaking to everybody.

The worst way to talk in politics is to everybody at once. 

KORNBLUT:  Talk about raising expectations.  I mean, you know, if expectations for the presidency were out of control at the beginning of the year, for this speech they are not really out of control. 

MATTHEWS:  How does he spin the left and spin the center-left at the same time in the same speech?

COOK:  Well, here is the thing, are you that night, Wednesday night? 

Are you.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to be on after it‘s shown like midnight that night. 

COOK:  Have a checklist of swing Democrats, and check them off if you see them there.  They‘re not going to be in the room.  They‘re not going to be there.  I was talking to a conservative Democrat congressman earlier this week.

He is not going to be in that room.  He is coming back later.  He doesn‘t want to be in the room. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, we‘re going to be on before and after that speech, because it‘s a hell of speech because it is the bell-ringer for the first term.  If he cannot unite his party, he will go down and the Republicans will say, he was threatening us with death squads—or death panels, he was threatening us with illegal aliens getting free—he was threatening us with subsidized abortions. 

The worst case will be what they beat, unless they pass something. 

Anyway, thank you.  That‘s my thought.

Anne Kornblut, welcome back.  Good luck with the book.

KORNBLUT:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Charles Cook, always a genius. 

Join us again Tuesday 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.

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