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updated 10/13/2009 11:47:47 AM ET 2009-10-13T15:47:47

HARDBALL

October 12, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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

Guest: Kevin Blackistone, Stephen A. Smith, Christopher Hitchens, Mark Green, Jay Newton-Small, Eugene Robinson, Jim Cramer, Courtney Reagan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Defending the Rush.

Let's play HARDBALL.

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

Ram Limbaugh! His name's Rush, but he wants to be a Ram. Rush Limbaugh, who knows how to rev up the right-wing offense, wants to take over the St. Louis franchise of the NFL. So is this good for professional football, for the players, for the fans, for America? Is it good for a man who makes millions working the great American divide to enter a world of professional sports that happily unites so many metropolitan areas? The head of the Players' Association is throwing a penalty flag on the guy who recently said the NFL looks like a bunch of L.A. gang members-you know, the Crips and the Bloods, but without their weapons.

Plus: The hawks are flying. When President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, the predators out there scrambled. Tonight, the erudite essayist Christopher Hitchens joins those flocking above (ph), demanding the president reject the historic honor. Could it be that what really bugs his critics is the fact that the honor has gone to a leader who opposed the war in Iraq from the outset, when they, the critics, were pushing it, and it has now triumphed so completely over the chauvinism, smugness and stupidity of the last eight years?

Also, have you checked out the economic numbers lately? Well, the stock market's up 51 percent since March, job losses are slowing, and most economists say we're on a path toward economic recovery. So if President Obama brought us back from the brink of another Depression, which is where the Bush administration left us, and saved the economy, why are the Obama bashers able to deny him at least some small measure of credit? We'll ask CNBC's Jim Cramer.

Plus: Are the grown-ups in the GOP finally speaking up? Some big name Republicans, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Dole and Bill Frist, are saying, Stop the "No, no, noes" and come up with some "Yes, yes, yesses. Stop the knee-jerk opposing the president for the sake of just opposing him and get health care reform done better." Well, that's in the "Politics Fix" tonight.

And does Hillary Clinton still hope to some day be president of the United States? Well, let's get her answer in the "Sideshow."

Let's start, however, with Rush Limbaugh trying to buy the St. Louis Rams. Stephen A. Smith is a sports journalist and commentator and Kevin Blackistone, who sits with me as a columnist for AOL's Fanhouse and is the Shirley Povitch (ph) chair-a great honor that is, perhaps up there with the Nobel-in sports journalism in the University of Maryland nearby here in College Park.

Well, the big question is-and I'm not getting to the legality, Stephen. I think it's clear Americans have the right to do with their money what they have the right to do with it. But let's take a look at this. This is Rush Limbaugh back not a thousand years ago, two years ago. "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons." And in 2006, three years ago, Rush said this about Michael J. Fox's struggle with Parkinson's disease. "He's exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking, and it's clearly an act. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox."

So you catch this guy's sensitivity in terms of his desire to unite America the way sports generally does in this country. Your thoughts, Kevin. I want to know whether you think it's good for the sport.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE, AOL FANHOUSE: It's bad for the sport. It's very bad for the sport. We're talking about the national pastime right now. That's what the NFL is. And this guy is divisive...

MATTHEWS: This time of year.

BLACKISTONE: Oh, yes. And you know, and this has turned into a field of meritocracy, the NFL has. I mean, we have-we have people of all hues in all positions in the league now, finally...

MATTHEWS: Black quarterback.

BLACKISTONE: That's not even a question anymore. Even when Rush Limbaugh brought it up on ESPN as an employee, de facto, with the NFL, and he got kicked out for bringing that up, you know, that's a-that's old history now.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's be fair. Let's be exactly fair. What did he say about Donovan McNabb of the Eagles?

BLACKISTONE: Well, basically, he said...

MATTHEWS: He said, A lot of guys' -- here he is.

BLACKISTONE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let's get his quote back in 2003, six years ago. Rush Limbaugh said this about the Eagles quarterback, the great Donovan McNabb. Here's what he said. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There's little hope invested in McNabb-there's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

You say that is (INAUDIBLE)

BLACKISTONE: Oh, that was ridiculous. And we know how important Donovan McNabb is to that team. And not only that, but...

MATTHEWS: Well, you were raving about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... about his performance yesterday...

BLACKISTONE: Yes, exactly, and...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKISTONE: ... it was outrageous. But the point is, is that by the time he brought up that issue, it was a dead issue.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's take a look here, this question. What do you think-well, here's what McNabb, by the way, said-before we get to Stephen. He said this about the possibility of Rush Limbaugh buying the Rams down in St. Louis. "If he's rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him, but I won't be in St. Louis any time soon."

Well, I think that depends on the schedule of the NFL more than anything about what Donovan McNabb thinks.

Stephen Smith, is this good for the NFL to have Rush Limbaugh as one of the owners in the box?

STEPHEN A. SMITH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, I'm glad you made the distinction between what the legalities of the situation and whether or not it's good. Certainly, from a legal standpoint, he does have the right. But from the standpoint of whether or not it's good for the NFL, I don't think it is because he would be somewhat divisive.

For me personally, I would like to see him try, and I would like to see the NFL embrace it to some degree because I'd like to see what African-American players exactly are going to stand up and speak in a very vociferous manner out against Rush Limbaugh, like they're claiming they would do. I want to see which players are going to pass up the money that's available...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMITH: (INAUDIBLE) 31 other teams are not going to give it to them.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's get...

SMITH: And oh, by the way, let me just throw out this little caveat.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMITH: It actually would be good for the city of St. Louis because their team stinks, and at least we'd have a reason to talk about them!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: How's the environment down there ethnically? Is it OK in St. Louis?

SMITH: Oh, I mean, it's...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... add to the melting pot and the happiness of America and St. Louis or not?

SMITH: I don't think so. I mean, I don't think...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, let's take a look...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here's something-let's take a look at what the players' association-this is Demar Smith (ph). He's the head of the Players' Association, getting to the point of what the players are going to do. Quote, "I've spoken to the commissioner and I understand that this ownership consideration's in the very early stages. But sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer and when it transcends."

BLACKISTONE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: "Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and

rejects discrimination and hatred." So he's putting some negative attitude

let's get-let's get Kevin in here.

BLACKISTONE: Yes, I mean, absolutely. That's what I'm talking about. I mean, this is already a field of meritocracy right now, and why would you invite somebody like Rush Limbaugh into this pot? It's not like the NFL needs to have this particular ownership group. They're going to have choices. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry right now that's doing just fine in a lot of corners of America, and I just don't think that Rush Limbaugh is a guy that they necessarily need.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... devil's advocate. Will he bring the conservatives to the NFL?

(LAUGHTER)

SMITH: Well, they're already there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is he going to bring in some right-wing...

SMITH: They're already there...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... root for his team?

SMITH: They're already there. Conservatives watch football, from what some of them have told me. But let's be real about something here. Kevin Blackistone and I have been friends for many years. I looked up to him a great deal. Kevin will speak to this. It is undeniable. We've got a whole bunch of people in the NFL and in professional sports of African-American descent have been flat out punks when it comes to addressing serious issues-fear of...

BLACKISTONE: That's true.

SMITH: ... fans retaliating, fear of management or ownership getting on them. I understand that Rush Limbaugh would be a divisive force to some degree because he wouldn't fit into the utopia image that the NFL likes to project. But the reality is, is that...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SMITH: ... it would shine a light on guys and whether or not they're really willing to stand up and take stands...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SMITH: ... because God knows they haven't been willing to do it...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SMITH: ... for the last quarter century.

MATTHEWS: Well, look, guys, I'm an NFL fan and I go to the games almost every week of the Redskins. Let's take a look at this. Here's a Jets player, Bart Scott.

BLACKISTONE: Bart Scott.

MATTHEWS: Going to the very point that Stephen just made rather loudly there-I think you're very excited about this. I want you to respond to this. Quote-this is what Scott said. He's a player. "I know I wouldn't want to play for him. He's a jerk. He's an"-expletive. I imagine what that is. "What he said about McNabb was inappropriate and insensitive, totally off base. He could offer me whatever he wanted, and I wouldn't play for him. My principles are greater, and I can't be bought."

So he's not going to go play for him. But isn't this-there's no-players don't get to call when their team goes on schedule.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKISTONE: ... but they do have free agents. I mean, this is...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKISTONE: This is the 40th anniversary of Curt Flood's fight against major league baseball...

SMITH: And they don't care.

BLACKISTONE: ... reserve clause, which he won. And these players today...

SMITH: And they don't care.

BLACKISTONE: ... have free agency and they can go play for who they want to play for. Now, that doesn't mean that some of them wouldn't wind up being stuck with having to play for a team owned by Rush Limbaugh...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I'm not sure-I think I might be with you, Stephen. I wonder if anybody's going to turn down a career in pro football because Rush is sitting in the way.

But let's take a look-here's what he had to say today about the NFL players like the ones we just heard from who don't want him being an owner. Here he is responding, Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: One of the things that is going around out there is that black NFL players will boycott playing the game if I am an owner in the league, which, of course, is patently absurd. But this is being reported, and it's-it's designed to affect the outcome of all of this, which, again, I can't address.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love the way he's so discreet!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He's so careful with his words, Rush Limbaugh. Yes, go ahead, Stephen.

SMITH: Well, Chris, let me say this in a much more lower monotone,

OK?

MATTHEWS: OK. Sure.

SMITH: The reality is that you can point to a couple guys that may very well mean what they say, but they're going to be individuals with options. By and large, the vast majority of NFL players are lying through their teeth when they say such things, as most athletes of African-American descent would be lying through their teeth. At the end of the day, the color that matters most is green. They can act any way they want to.

MATTHEWS: So why are you so angry at that?

SMITH: Because I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a minute.

SMITH: Because I feel that there has been a plethora of opportunities over the last quarter of a century for guys to have to step up instead of hiding behind reporters, being scared to address issues. This is what I mean when I point at Kevin. Kevin knows this because he was an outstanding...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... thing you're talking about. When have players-give me your big thing that everybody watching will understand. Where have the players failed to express their true values?

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: There have been times, whether it's involving free agency, whether it's involving collective bargaining negotiations, whether it involves some of the racial issues that have existed while collectively bargaining with the leagues, and what have you. Players have been petrified of standing up and speaking out on issues...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SMITH: ... and suddenly...

MATTHEWS: Well, you...

SMITH: ... you're going to come across and say you're ready to talk now? It's ridiculous.

BLACKISTONE: But you know what? I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Kevin, you say it is a meritocracy there. This is...

BLACKISTONE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... where your ability to score a touchdown, to do what you have to do to do a good block, to do what you have to do to kick a good punt, comes down to talent.

BLACKISTONE: Sure. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: But he's suggesting there's some kind of racial tension to this sport that holds people back from...

BLACKISTONE: Well, he's-well, I think Stephen is talking about

guys not standing up for important issues in this country. We've had that

we've had that problem before.

But you know, I think the success of Barack Obama, which brought people out and got them involved in the political process more than ever before-and when you get somebody like a Rush Limbaugh, who is a lightning rod, and who stood against so many things that these guys stand for...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know the game of sports better than I do and the inside of the NFL. You cover it. Bottom line-I want you both ready for this, the big one. Will the NFL owners reject the application of-of Rush Limbaugh to own the Rams in St. Louis?

BLACKISTONE: Yes, they will because it's not in their political best interests.

MATTHEWS: Will they reject this offer, Stephen?

SMITH: Absolutely, they will, because it's not in their political best interests. They'd be petrified...

MATTHEWS: So he wins either way.

SMITH: ... of bringing that controversy...

MATTHEWS: So he wins either way. He gets to be a victim.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It's a favorite position of the right these days, by the way, and it always works in this country. If you can prove that you've been screwed by somebody who-you make them the heavy, then black opinion, player opinion, public opinion, liberal opinion are the bad guys again. Rush Limbaugh is a hero to his people. Your thoughts? Isn't that what he wants?

BLACKISTONE: Well, that's what he wants, but let me ask you this. Why don't they-why don't his people call him out for being a hypocrite on this, as well? Here's a guy who's against socialism, and here's a multi-billion-dollar corporation in the NFL that abides by socialism because they share profits to keep everybody afloat. I mean, and he's embracing that to make a-to make a...

MATTHEWS: Well, I think it's pretty capitalistic myself. Anyway, thank you. I saw that movie, "On Any Given Sunday." I know all about this!

 

 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Stephen A. Smith, sir. You're always welcome. And get that-I yell once in a while, too.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Kevin's new book, by the way, "A Gift for Ron," is out tomorrow. There it is. Show them a copy right here. "A Gift for Ron, there it is, "A Gift for Ron."

Coming up: What's the problem with Barack Obama winning the Nobel prize? That's my question. If he won it by beating back the Bush years, is that wrong? We've got a great debate coming up here between Air America Radio's Mark Green, who thinks the president deserves the prize fully, and Christopher Hitchens, who thinks he should reject it. We'll be right back with both these fellows to go at it on that one, the prize, should he take it.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. It may be hard to believe that a Nobel Peace Prize could create such conflict, such war-like attitudes, but it appears to be so for President Obama. Is the Nobel backlash real, or has it been ginned up by the right?

"Vanity Fair" columnist Christopher Hitchens wrote about Obama's award in this week's "Newsweek," and Mark Green runs Air America Radio and is author of "Change for America." By the way, Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for "Vanity Fair" and celebrated for that role.

What-is this your political attitude that makes you not want Barack Obama to be celebrated, or is it your iconoclasm, which is historically taken down people like Mother Teresa with the missionary potion, who you've said terrible things about...

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, "VANITY FAIR": And Henry Kissinger.

MATTHEWS: ... Princess Diana-but that's all right. That's all right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Is this just another icon that you're clasting here?

HITCHENS: Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, for example, neither of them having done anything for peace and Kissinger only having done things for war. My first (INAUDIBLE) iconoclasm is that I think...

MATTHEWS: You called Mother Teresa a "thieving fanatical Albanian dwarf."

HITCHENS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, anything you say about Barack Obama's kind of puny compared that.

HITCHENS: That's nothing to what she said when she took up the Nobel Prize award and made her speech in Stockholm and said the main threat to world peace is abortion and contraception, that they're moral equivalence of murder. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... and Princess Diana is a "simpering, Bambi narcissist."

HITCHENS: That's also true.

MATTHEWS: OK, so what do you think of Barack Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: At least no one tried to give Princess Diana the Nobel Peace Prize, though they did give it to another person involved in the land mines (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: What is wrong with him taking it?

HITCHENS: Well, it would be like giving someone an Oscar in the hope that he would one day make a good motion picture. It's a virtual award. It's for good intent.

MATTHEWS: It's not for winning the election.

HITCHENS: No, it's not-winning the election is not a victory for

peace on its own. He hasn't done-he hasn't brokered a single agreement

Hillary Clinton this weekend, minor it may seem, brokered a reasonable agreement...

MATTHEWS: OK...

HITCHENS: ... between Turkey and Armenia. At least that's something.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... eight years of (INAUDIBLE) by the war hawks was a successful move for peace.

HITCHENS: Well, you must love the Stockholm committee because they've already given prizes to four people who were...

MATTHEWS: No, you can't do this. No. This won't work. This won't work.

HITCHENS: Al Gore got one. Jimmy Carter got one.

MATTHEWS: I'm for both those guys. I'm not with Yasser Arafat. I'm not with Le Duc Tho and I'm not with Kissinger.

HITCHENS: Well, Le Duc Tho had the grace to turn it down because the prize he got with Henry Kissinger was spurious. It was for an agreement that was...

MATTHEWS: That was nothing.

HITCHENS: It was designed to break down and lead to war.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mark Green. Welcome back to the show, Mark.

MARK GREEN, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: After your recent attempt at political offense, which I always salute-and I liked your note about it. It isn't always the right direction for a family man. That said, defend the honor of Barack Obama, the Nobel peace laureate.

GREEN: He needs to defense from me. Christopher and I don't get a vote on the committee, but until recently, I would have thought it's a good thing for an American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, just like it would have been a good thing, not vital to our national interest, to have won the Olympics in 2016.

Christopher's thoughtfulness excepted, there are a lot of Kanye Wests out there bellyaching that Obama has undeservedly won this award. Christopher may be right that, implicitly, deeds are better than words. It would have been nice if he had have signed a peace agreement somewhere. But for...

HITCHENS: Just for an example, yes.

GREEN: Yes, fine.

Words count too. And, when JFK said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" and when Lenin said bread, peace and land, those were just words, but they laid out a vision that eventually became true.

So, the Nobel Committee thought, A, negatively, better that he didn't dig us into a hole by unilaterally invading the wrong country. And B, he has laid out a vision of a world with less nuclear weapons and more diplomacy. They thought that was a very good thing. And so do I.

HITCHENS: Well, that's exactly what's wrong with the award.

The chairman of the committee said it's like encouraging and enhancing, was his word, giving the examples of Willy Brandt in 1971 and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990.

MATTHEWS: Are they pushing our foreign policy?

HITCHENS: No, those were the two examples. And I...

MATTHEWS: Are they pushing us?

HITCHENS: Well, no, wait. Of course, it's an attempt to intervene in American internal affairs. That's all right.

So was the award to Carter. It was to deliberately-they said it's to rebuke Bush's policy in Iran. Giving it to Cordell Hull, they said it's because he is anti-isolationist. We want to change American Palestinians.

That's they're right to try. I don't dispute it. But what they can't say is that Obama has done what Brandt did going to the Warsaw ghetto...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HITCHENS: ... opening relations with-he had already done all that by the time he got the prize.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Can I try something?

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: Gorbachev, by the time he got the prize in 1990, had already signed the big deal with Reagan.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: OK. I will ask you this. Can you picture Reagan having been invited to share by the Swedes a prize with Mikhail Gorbachev? If you can, you've got more imagination than...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, he's a man of the right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They're never going to give an award to a man of the right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this question, though.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here's what I think their case is.

HITCHENS: You said it.

MATTHEWS: After years of unilateralism,of go-it-alone cowboyism, of mocking Europe, and refusing to be multilateral, refusing to deal with other nations as equal, we bring in a president. We elect him. And he comes in on a platform of saying, no more go it alone, we're going to join the world, we're going to work through diplomacy, not war.

They award him for that. And that's what they say in the citation.

HITCHENS: That's nonsense, Chris. I'm sorry. George Bush was the first to president to make sure the U.S. paid its long-overdue dues-overdue dues-sorry-overdue dues to the U.N. He was the-he went to the U.N. about five times on Iraq, and, on the main point, he got a 9-0 Security Council vote saying Iraq must come into compliance.

Many of us thought that would have been enough. He laid out a very careful case. It's absolutely not true to say that he and Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell had...

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN: Chris, if I could...

MATTHEWS: Mark, your turn.

GREEN: ... the premise of your question...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: ... contempt for the U.N.

GREEN: The premise of your question sounds like you voted on the Nobel Committee for Obama, and I would have done the same.

Christopher is, for the first time in my experience, establishing a cost-benefit analysis of when someone should get and when someone and/or should reject a Nobel Prize.

You can come up with other winners who may be more worthy, hypothetical, and I'm not going to disagree with that. But when-remember that young woman actress who won for "Happy-Go-Lucky" an Oscar? No one said, she is no Meryl Streep.

Well, Barack Obama has a plan and a vision. And, in eight months, he hasn't implemented it. But I think, at the least, he's proving to be our Reagan. Remember how many liberals then and now are upset that Reagan was so much more popular than his policies. He connected to people because of a certain eloquence and personality.

Obama, too, on the other side, is extremely popular in the world. And, Chris and Christopher, if this award means that he is even more popular, more so than even now, than chiefs of state and other countries, when he in the future tries to do something, economic, military, U.N., winning the Nobel Peace Prize for an American president is a good thing. It would be insane and idiotic and unprecedented for the head of a free country to turn it down.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me throw a tough one at you. And then I want Christopher's response.

HITCHENS: It would unprecedented. It would unprecedented.

MATTHEWS: Is this an attempt to get him not to send more troops to Afghanistan? Is this a very purposeful award-giving?

GREEN: I actually spoke to Mr. Jagland of the committee, and he said it wasn't.

I'm kidding.

I have no idea. And it may be right that they're trying to manipulate in some way. You don't look at the motives of a public official when they vote in the Congress. You look at their vote. They voted for Obama for their own reasons. I think it's justified, maybe not as much as Willy Brandt or others.

But, if they think it would affect President Obama's difficult, close decision, more troops, the same number of troops, or less troops, that's absurd. He will decide, as he seems to always decide in the campaign and as president, digging into the facts and as he judges it on the merits.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can a president who has just won the Nobel Peace laureate risks a headline that says, "Nobel Peace Laureate Sends 40,000 More Troops to Afghanistan?"

HITCHENS: Well...

MATTHEWS: I think he ought to be ready to do that.

HITCHENS: ... I don't think that was in their mind. But I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You don't think it's an attempt to manipulate his...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: I think your second question is much more germane.

He is made a huge hostage to fortune by doing this. From now on, everything he does will be Nobel Peace laureate.

MATTHEWS: So-called peace man.

HITCHENS: Yes.

It's a crazy thing to do before you have done anything to deserve or to earn it.

GREEN: Ah, Chris, Christopher...

HITCHENS: He hasn't-he hasn't brokered a single even handshake deal of the kind that breaks down so often.

GREEN: Chris...

HITCHENS: He's done nothing remotely like it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HITCHENS: It's a-it's un-I would say it's un-American...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can I ask how a positive question here?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How is he likely to win it? Could he win it, in your eyes, prematurely, if we do get Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard behind him,that faction behind him, to relent on nuclear weaponry?

HITCHENS: I would say this would be the test case.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HITCHENS: Iran...

MATTHEWS: If he can get them to relent.

HITCHENS: Two things.

Iran must say they-we will help them get nuclear power, but not nuclear weapons.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HITCHENS: Firm distinction. They signed the relevant treaty.

They're breaking it.

In the meantime, they don't even let their own people interfere in their own internal affairs.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HITCHENS: They describe everyone else as interfering with the Iranian...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: Remember the human rights dimension of the Peace Prize...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: ... people like Mandela and so forth.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: If he could get Iran-if he could help Iran to become a democracy and help it to disarm...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. OK. You see, you guys on the right, you neoconservatives...

HITCHENS: ... that would be something.

MATTHEWS: ... you think he has to change the internal politics of Iran to earn the Peace Prize. I'm saying get the nuclear weapons out of the system.

HITCHENS: Two things are completely inseparable.

MATTHEWS: Oh.

HITCHENS: The Iranians are doing this...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: See, this is what neos do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is what you guys do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You will do anything to make it impossible.

HITCHENS: The Islamic Republic-the Islamic Republic is doing this so it can stay a dictatorship.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Because this is why the world hates Bush and what he stands for. We interfere in other people's domestic politics.

HITCHENS: The Iranians-the Iranians did not dislike Bush at all. He called it right. He said the-first, the nuclear weapons by the mullahs is part of the campaign to stay a dictatorship.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I think...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... interventionism.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Your last thought, Mark.

GREEN: We have heard this argument before, I suddenly realized. In the campaign, a lot of Obama-haters and critics said, he is young. He talks well, but what has he done?

Same argument now. He talks well, but what has he done?

HITCHENS: That's what Mrs. Clinton said, actually.

GREEN: He has changed the perception of America. He hasn't invaded the wrong country.

HITCHENS: That's what his secretary of state said, Mr. Green.

GREEN: And he is on the right track. And the Nobel is lauding him for that.

MATTHEWS: One thing great about...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS: Mr. Green, that's what his secretary of state said.

MATTHEWS: And Mr. Hitchens has once again clarified the distinctions between sophisticated liberal opinion and neoconservatism.

HITCHENS: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And we heard it tonight. That's called interventionism.

That's why the world is mad at Bush.

Thank you, Christopher Hitchens...

HITCHENS: Any time.

MATTHEWS: ... a brilliant writer, a brilliant...

HITCHENS: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: ... provocateur.

And, Mark Green, welcome back to the front.

GREEN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Hillary Clinton does the unthinkable. She's asked about running for president one day, and she talks-I have never heard this word out of the mouth of somebody so vibrant, so vigorous. Retirement? You've got to be kidding? Well, wait do you hear her. It's astounding. It's coming in the "Sideshow."

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."

First up: Keep off the grass.

You see that big gay rights protest here in Washington yesterday? It created lots of pictures in the paper and on TV, didn't it? Did it do the job? Did it push back-or push forward, rather, the gay rights agenda on issues like don't ask, don't tell and same-sex marriage?

Depends who you ask. U.S. Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts,

who chairs the Banking Committee and who happens to be the first openly gay

member of Congress, says the whole march to Washington thing is a-quote

"waste of time."

Quote: "The only thing they're going to be putting pressure on is the grass," he wrote. "Call or write your representative or senator, and then have your friends call and write their representative or senator. That's what the NRA does. That's what AARP does."

Well, that's true. And I agree with him. There is nothing like a professionally typed, properly written and addressed stamped letter to the U.S. Congress on a business letterhead and business-sized envelope. That may sound very formal, but it works.

The most important thing, by the way, is the return address on that business letter you send. As Tip O'Neill once said, all politics is local. You better be from the district or the state. Please use this information positively. It's very important. Barney is right, and I'm right.

Finally, it's the question Hillary Clinton can't escape. Today, she gave her most definitive answer to date to NBC's Ann Curry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I can't help but think, nine months into this administration, having campaigned so fiercely to be president yourself, that there can't be moments for you where you wish you could make the decisions yourself.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have to tell you, it never crosses my mind.

CURRY: Never?

CLINTON: No, not at all. My-I am part of the team that makes the decisions.

CURRY: Will you ever run for president again, yes or no?

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: No.

CURRY: No?

CLINTON: No. No. I mean, this is-this is a great job. It is a 24/7 job. And I'm looking forward to retirement at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Good for Hillary. She is doing this job as a professional. I mean it. What a great answer, by the way.

Up next: The recession is ending, the stock market is way up, so why isn't President Obama getting a little bit of credit for this, for turning this economy around? They avoided the Great Depression again. and, definitely, the economics thing is beginning to turn around because of what he has done.

Jim Cramer is coming up to give him a report card.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COURTNEY REAGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I'm Courtney Reagan with your CNBC "Market Wrap."

Stocks ending mixed today on light holiday trading. Banks and the bond market were closed for Columbus Day. The Dow Jones finished 20 points higher, after hitting a new intraday high for the year, the S&P 500 adding four points to finish at its closing high for the year-the Nasdaq, though, down just a fraction-of-a-point.

And the National Association of Business Economists says the economy is growing again; the recession is officially over. But try telling that to 15 million Americans looking for work. The association expects the jobless rate to climb to 10 percent, before beginning to fall again by the end of next year.

Most of the big financials gaining today, as earnings season kicks into high-gear. Reports are due out this week from Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, and Goldman Sachs.

And Intel and IBM up again today, ahead of earnings reports also due out later this week.

That's it from CNBC. We're first in business worldwide-now back to

HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

The stock market is headed for 10000 again. That's good news. But why isn't President Obama getting any credit?

I'm joined right now by Jim Cramer, my pal from Philly. Philly won last night. We certainly hope, in the interest of America, they within tonight. He is the host of CNBC's "Mad Money" and the author of a new book called "Getting Back to Even."

Well, I guess the big question I would have, Jim, if you had to look, say, five, 10 years from now looking back to now with the clarity of history, does Barack Obama deserve credit for, A, avoiding a second Great Depression, as he came into office with a strong stimulus of almost $2 trillion in fiscal stimulus, huge printing of money, the bailouts, et cetera, and, secondly, has he really put us on the course to recovery from this recession?

JIM CRAMER, HOST, "MAD MONEY": All right.

I think it's a team effort. Chris, first of all, Ben Bernanke was late, but really went into high-gear. And the transition from Bush to Obama was really saved by Bernanke's actions. Second, Bernanke did a good thing, but also Tim Geithner did a good thing.

And you could argue, well, Tim Geithner is totally Obama's man. Geithner made everybody feel that the banking system was safe. Once we had the safe banking system, we began to have the recovery. So, Obama should get a lot of credit for that.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, when the-when the politicians wag and

the right wing goes after them, as they do-that's the way politics works

they say bailouts, bailouts, bailouts, as if there is something wrong with the guy. They say deficits, deficits, deficits, as if there is something wrong with the guy.

But everything I studied in college, in grad school, was, you have got to do those things, both in terms of the sectors of the economy, which are in trouble, the financial sectors, the auto industry, and you had to do something with regard to the overall economy, in terms of printing the money, monetary policy, fiscal policy.

The very things he did are the things you are taught you have to do.

(LAUGHTER)

CRAMER: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: Am I wrong?

CRAMER: No, you're totally right.

I hear those people criticize, and I think, did they ever read any history about what this country did wrong between 1929 and 1932? This was exactly-what these pundits are calling for is exactly what created a multi-year...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CRAMER: ... depression.

No, I mean, Bernanke, Obama, Geithner, they got it right.

MATTHEWS: Well, all you hear from on the right is like Terry Jeffrey, my pal who sits here like from "Human Events," from the far right, they come on here as if all you had to do was laissez-faire, sit back, let the invisible hand solve the problem.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Say's Law is still in effect. Every-all the markets are going to work. Everything is going to clear.

They actually say this crapola so loudly, they must believe it or else they are just desperate. But they do believe that doing nothing was the right answer. Just balance the budget...

CRAMER: Well, then they're dreamers. Look...

MATTHEWS: Let business solve the problem.

CRAMER: ... here's the hand. It wasn't invisible. It was choking America.

We are very lucky that these guys understood history. Now, the reason why it's easy to criticize Obama and why he doesn't take any credit is, we haven't created any jobs yet, Chris. And that is bad.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you the question. Let's talk about how we keep score in electoral politics. That's how we keep score. Between now and next Summer, when people begin to decide how they're going to vote in next year's election, will the employment rate be coming down by then?

CRAMER: Unequivocally. I think that we have seen the peak or are at the peak, and that next year will produce a lot of jobs. I'm very excited about that.

MATTHEWS: We're looking at that peak. We just showed it up there on that card, 9.8 percent. Do you think it's going double, and then come back down, or go down from where it's at now?

CRAMER: I think we are at the peak or within a point one. We are not going to reach 10 percent. I have my neck on the line on that. But I think, Chris, that jobs are going to be created next year. But we really need help from Washington.

MATTHEWS: OK. When Ronald Reagan got re-elected with that good feeling in the country for a lot of the country-you've got to admit it was good feeling. Forty nine states voted for him. And probably Minnesota really did, but Ed Rollins let them have that one. He always told me that. The country felt good. The unemployment rate when Ronald Reagan had-I was going to say GMA-Morning in America was seven percent. People thought that was great after that 11 percent rate under the Reagan recession.

Will we be down as low as seven by 2012?

CRAMER: Oh, boy. That's-by 2012, yes, I think we will. I think we'll have a good economy, and it will really ignite. But you know what? We really need to have the stimulus more toward shovel-ready projects.

MATTHEWS: When is that-OK. Second question, does there need to be a real stimulus package? You know, David Garth, the great political consultant, said you have to remove the smell of decay and replace it with the smell of construction.

We all know what construction smells like: dirt, concrete, cement, wood. You can smell it in the streets when you walk by a construction site and you're a superintendent. When is that going to happen? When are the cranes going to go up? When are the highways-what happened to the true infrastructure spending that we're supposed to see?

CRAMER: We never really-

MATTHEWS: What happened to it?

CRAMER: We never got it. Even if you look at the numbers initially, they were really just a little bit bigger than the Big Dig.

MATTHEWS: Was it all just pay off the mayors and governors? Where did that money go?

CRAMER: Some people think it was just pay off and political, went to people who already had jobs for state and local governments, and for the bond holders.

MATTHEWS: To avoid shut downs and layoffs. But it didn't go to construction projects, which people could smell and see. I believe that's what bugs people, and that's why Pelosi is not popular. She is not popular because she presided over the creation of a big grab bag of stuff, from condoms to god knows what. No, I'm serious.

CRAMER: No, I know. The real-

MATTHEWS: And she has said the tractors are coming; the highway repair stuff; the bridges are going to be fixed; the school buses will be running safely from now on. The country would have said, you know, this is a little bit Democrat. But it isn't socialism. It's Democrat. And they would have said, good for them. But they didn't do that.

CRAMER: Right. We did not get infrastructure. We're not criss-crossing the country with new highways or pipelines for natural gas. We are not putting people to work. We are still losing jobs. There may be as much as 18 percent is the real unemployment, because if you include the people who have given up.

And that's why Obama can't take credit for what's happening.

MATTHEWS: You know what I did back when I was working for Tip O'Neill? The Republicans were yelling against jobs programs. So I called the chief engineer in Peoria, which is the town of the leading opposition leader, Bob Michael, and I said, how many bridges are below code? He gave me the list of the bridges below code, safety code and their addresses. And is Tip O'Neill went out on the floor with that list, and read that list of bridges below code, where if school buses went over, there would be a problem.

And you know what, Bob Michael, the Republican leader, decided he better get off the floor for a while. That's how you play politics.

CRAMER: You bet.

MATTHEWS: Real jobs. What happened to the old Democratic party of jobs? Anyway, thank you.

CRAMER: Chris, you are right on.

MATTHEWS: Go Phillies tonight. "Mad Money" airs weeknights-weeknights at 6:00 and 11:00 Eastern. And the name of your book is, Jim?

CRAMER: "Getting Back to Even." It's time to make money, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Thank you. Everybody wants it back.

A growing number of big name moderate Republicans now say it's time to tone down the negative rhetoric and work with President Obama on health care, instead of just nay saying and nagging. Will Republicans in Congress listen to that advice of the grown ups? That's coming up in the fix. This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a surprise. We're back now with the politics fix, with "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and "Time Magazine's" Jay Newton Small.

Let's take a look at something that Bob Dole, a big senator for years, ran for president, obviously, had to say the other day. "I don't want the Republicans putting up a no sign, and saying we're not open for business."

Now that kind of positive view of the Republican role as loyal opposition, which is so much at odds with sort of the Rush Limbaugh approach we have been talking about, grabbed the president's attention. And here's what President Obama said during his weekly address this Saturday. Let's listen. And watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And earlier this week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out in support of reform, joining two former Republican Senate majority leaders, Bob Dole and Doctor Bill Frist, himself a cardiac surgeon.

These distinguished leaders understand that health insurance reform isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue that demands a solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. Is that just background music? He is saying, let's get together, kumbayah. Is it going to work?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": How many divisions does the Pope have? How many votes in the Senate-

MATTHEWS: That's a great question. Can he help him get 60?

ROBINSON: Well, you know, one would-one would hope-

MATTHEWS: Will that help Susan Collins? Let's get down to it. Will that help Susan Collins join?

ROBINSON: It does give some cover to a Susan Collins or an Olympia Snowe, who might be thinking about taking the plunge.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME MAGAZINE": But more importantly, it gives cover to all those Democrats who say, I have to go alone on this. And they can say, you know, saying the Republicans-

MATTHEWS: You're so smart. You mean even those moderate and conservative Democrats from the south and the Midwest, who are scared to death to put their name on this, they can go home to their districts and say, hey, look, Frist is for it, Dole is for it, Schwarzenegger is for it.

NEWTON-SMALL: Republicans aren't totally unified in their opposition. There's all these great big Republicans on it. Too bad none of them can vote.

MATTHEWS: She allowed. Do you think-let's get down to the reality. I've always been a believer that in the end, the Senate is the Senate. It may have the new Senate, the aspect of everybody for himself, but there's going to be a center somewhere. Do you think, in the end, the moderate and conservative Democrats, and a couple moderate Republicans who are left on that side of the aisle, are going to unite and do this?

ROBINSON: I think they will. I think they will. I think, in the end, a bill will get through the Senate, and something like the Baucus bill, and they'll have to work out the semantics.

MATTHEWS: We'll begin to see that progress tomorrow when they pass the Baucus bill out of committee.

ROBINSON: Right. If I'm wrong, then we won't begin to see that progress tomorrow.

MATTHEWS: Do you think some of the people will pretend they're not for it, like play hard to get? At the end, they'll vote against it in committee, even. They'll do all kinds of things to say, I never was for it because it didn't have that public option in it, or whatever. You know, people like Wyden, play hard to get? Nobody wants a primary challenge. That seems to be what they're all playing, that game.

NEWTON-SMALL: In the end as well, as well, for the Republicans-this is getting back to the Frist point you've got going here. At the end, this is an extremely difficult vote to vote against. If they do actually manage to do all of the-all the Republicans unified against this-I mean, Medicare got 13 Republican votes. Social Security got 17 Republican votes.

MATTHEWS: You're comparing this back in '65 and going back to '33 and '34s.

NEWTON-SMALL: Exactly. These huge bills that mean so much for your constituents, for millions of your constituents, voting against them, at the end of the day, is incredibly difficult.

MATTHEWS: Isn't the old trick in politics, the safest vote is to vote against something that passed or to vote for something that fails? Aren't they the safest vote, because you're never held accountable for what happened?

ROBINSON: If you end up, at the end of the day, with all Republicans voting against this thing, I think that's bad for the Republican party, because I think-what I hear when I'm traveling around the country is you folks in Washington talk, talk, talk; you never do anything. I think, in the end, doing something is a safer vote.

MATTHEWS: We're going to get back to a little more fighting spirit here. I want to try to get something going here. We're going to end the show tonight with a big fight over our colleague, as we say at NBC, Rush Limbaugh. Whether he should be running an NFL team and whether he's a uniter or divider. One thing we all know-Gene and I live in Washington. Do you live in Washington?

NEWTON-SMALL: I do.

MATTHEWS: One thing about the Redskins, despite their title, they do unite this city ethnically in many ways. Eugene Robinson, Jay Newton-Small, we'll be right back to talk about Rush Limbaugh and whether he's going to help football or not. We'll be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: When I, for example, say I think the media has a little interest in a black quarterback doing well, I mean it. Most of the sports media-media is politically correct liberals. And that kind of surface stuff matters to them.

I'm interested in peoples' hearts and their souls, because that's what animates us as human beings. Not our skin color. I'm color blind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Yes, right. That was Rush Limbaugh earlier today. Maybe, is; he probably is. We're right back with Eugene Robinson and Jay Newton-Small for the politics fix. You know, why is he talking-as we say, why's he talking about-this is the problem with sports. Why does he get into ethnicity? Let McNabb be-everybody knows he's black. Let him be a star. Why bring up the fact some people are rooting for him because he's black? Why do you go after that as a negative. I don't get it.

ROBINSON: I don't get it-

MATTHEWS: It's not negative.

ROBINSON: Especially since what he says he's looking for in a player is what a lot of people think McNabb has the most of. I mean, I know Eagles fans who are most impressed with-I just think that's a bad, dumb football thing to say, what Limbaugh said. McNabb is a leader.

MATTHEWS: Why did he get into it?

ROBINSON: Why did he get into it? You tell me.

MATTHEWS: Jay, you want to get into this? Are you an NFL fan? I got to tell you, it's so interesting Rush Limbaugh having the financial power. That's probably bothering a lot of commentators, the fact that he's got the hundreds of millions of dollars from success on the right that he's able to be even in the game of buying a football team or having co-ownership.

NEWTON-SMALL: The salary-like, you know, he renegotiated his contract last year for 400,000 dollars. That's a huge amount of money. I don't know any other journalist that gets paid that much money. I don't know if you could call him a journalist.

MATTHEWS: You just did.

NEWTON-SMALL: I'm sorry. An entertainer.

MATTHEWS: It's nice having you. No, I just think it's interesting, because the one thing about this city, spending all these years in Washington-which can be a tough city, because you've got wealthy people who moved here for national reasons, local African-American community which is not wealthy. It is, you know, middle class in most cases these days. But it's tough. There's a lot of natural rivalries going around here. Everybody agree about the Redskins, especially when they're winning. This year's a tough year. It's a tough year.

But he comes into a sports team like St. Louis, which can be more-you know, a little more tough on the race front down there I'll bet.

NEWTON-SMALL: Sure. Look, there's already been players that have said, you know, I'm not going to flay for Rush Limbaugh. And the Rams can ill-afford these days-

MATTHEWS: -- in a row?

ROBINSON: They are in trouble. The team-

MATTHEWS: Bottom line. I did this earlier in the show. Gene, editor of a major newspaper in Washington all these years: will the players and the Players Association put enough pressure on the owners to reject this deal?

ROBINSON: I doubt it. I doubt it, to tell you the truth. I think it will be a hoo-ha. Football is not quite like baseball in the club-in the ownership clubbiness sense. I think that money will talk, basically. An NFL franchise-

MATTHEWS: If he brings money to the table, they'll want it.

ROBINSON: If he brings money to the table-he's a big football fan. Supposedly knowledgeable about the game, although, again, I think that was a dumb thing to say about McNabb that I would question --

MATTHEWS: I think the fact that he was even given a job on Monday night all those months.

ROBINSON: Oh, right. Rush, we hardly knew you in the football world.

MATTHEWS: Rush Limbaugh has his constituency. I've always said that he's a support group for white traveling salesmen. They're out there working hard, and he's with them. Anyway, that's what he does for a living.

Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for giving you to us again tonight on a plate. Thank you, Gene Robinson. Thank you, Jay Newton-Small. Thanks for coming here.

Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL. By the way, the Senate Finance Committee is going to vote tomorrow on that health care bill. After all this talk, reality bites tomorrow. 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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