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updated 10/19/2009 11:41:16 AM ET 2009-10-19T15:41:16

Guests: Jim Cramer, David Shuster, Pat Buchanan, Jim Cramer, Rev. Al Sharpton, Ruben Navarette, Anne Kornblut, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Blocking the Rush.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Sacked.  Rush Limbaugh, a man who traffics in words, has learned the important lesson, words count.  Rush‘s words, his racially insensitive and inflammatory words, have knocked him out as a potential NFL owner.  The master of righteous indignation blames many for his failure, including the president of the United States and the Democratic Party, implying that it takes large forces indeed to bring down so grand a man as he.

Plus: Wall Street rises, bonuses for everyone, billion-dollar profits.  How is it that the same incompetence, greed and arrogance that brought the near collapse of our financial system last year and cost us trillions to bail out ended up getting so richly rewarded?  Now with unemployment still rising, with people making less money, working fewer hours, we learn that Wall Street is getting ready for a record payday, $140 billion in bonus income, more than during the boom times before the near collapse.  What‘s going on?  We bail these people out, and they reward themselves with record bonuses.  At long last, we have no shame.  Jim Cramer joins us tonight on HARDBALL.

And the next time you get on a plane, do you want the least expensive pilot the airline can afford flying the plane?  Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger doesn‘t think so.  He‘s the hero pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson River last winter, and he said it‘s gotten so bad for pilots that he used to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along to eat in the cockpit while smelling the fine cooking wafting from first class.  He‘ll be with us to talk about airline safety.

Also, Hillary Clinton, after a year living without politics, finds herself more popular than the guy who beat her last year.  You want to know why?  Well, it‘s about not having to face the lions.  That‘s in the “Politics Fix.”

And finally, Beau ideal?  A young fellow just back from Iraq has his eyes on Dad‘s old job.  Could be interesting.  We‘ve got that in the “Sideshow.”

Let‘s start with Rush Limbaugh dumped by the group seeking to buy the St. Louis Rams.  The Reverend Al Sharpton was critical of Limbaugh‘s potential involvement with the Rams.  And Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.

Boy, you‘ve got your game face on still, Reverend.  What do you think?  Was this a good sack?  Was this the right thing to do, to help knock this guy out of contention as a potential co-owner of an NFL team?

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  Yes, I do.  I think that it started when the players themselves objected to it, based on the fact that Mr. Limbaugh had had—made certain statements such as saying that the NFL now looked like the Crips and the Bloods without weapons, making derogatory statements against Donovan McNabb.

And I think that if you want to be an NFL owner, you have to be accountable for what you say about those that generate the money in that league.  And I think that Mr. Limbaugh, who has made a career out of holding people accountable, had to be accountable to his own statements, and I think he ultimately was.

Let‘s remember here, Chris, his name was withdrawn by those that submitted his name.  The NFL, nobody disqualified him.  They withdrew his name.  So he can have all these grandiose ideas of a conspiracy, what sacked him was the people that brought him to the party withdrew him from the party.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go over this.  I know he made the comment about the teams acting like the Crips and Bloods, acting like an LA street gang against another LA street gang.  I get that.  He has said that he felt that he had said the wrong words that sounded racial by suggesting names of gangs that are, I believe, mainly African-American.

But here‘s the question.  He also made some other comments about Donovan McNabb over the years.  I remember that comment saying that the press was in love with the guy because he‘s an African-American but he really wasn‘t that good a quarterback.  Well, people who watch the NFL can make their own mind up about that situation.  Seems like McNabb‘s winning that argument.  But are there any other statements he‘s made over his long radio career?  He‘s on about three hours a day, every day.  Can you add up more than those two comments that might be called insensitive, at least?

SHARPTON:  I mean, there probably are, but I don‘t think they‘re material here.  Those are the two I raised to the NFL.  Those are the ones the NFL players raised.  We‘re not talking about his politics here or even his racial views.  We‘re talking about, he‘s asking to be part of an ownership of a team that will vote on the decisions of NFL contracts for players, vendors, stadium workers, and what he says about that industry is pregnant.

I think they‘re trying to broaden the argument—it‘s a very narrow argument—about the NFL and about the privilege of being part of the ownership.  He has the right to apply.  He does not have the right to be an owner.  That‘s up to the NFL.

But what happened here is the people that were bringing him in decided to withdraw him.  And I think that all of these other implications really don‘t deal with the fact that the people that thought he was an asset began to think he was a liability.  He‘s trying now to make this like this is some wounding of American conservatism.  He was rejected by his own partners, ultimately.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at this from another point of view, Pat Buchanan.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, I think his act was shabby, vindictive, petty.  It is disgusting in this sense.  Chris, you and I have made controversial statements to Reverend Al Sharpton and the Tawana Brawley hoax case and Duke rape case, which turned out to be a hoax—have made we regret and apologize for.

At the same time, to blacklist an individual, just like they used to do out in Hollywood when they were communists, cost them their jobs because of something they said when those folks did terrible things.  To do this to Rush Limbaugh—look, I heard his statement on Donovan McNabb.  Look, we talked in the campaign.   Journalists went in the tank for Barack Obama.  Some of us said that.  Does that disqualify us from a job?

He was wrong about McNabb.  McNabb had a great season that year, so he made a wrong statement.  You deny a man a position like that—this is blacklisting, in my judgment.  It‘s contemptible.  Liberals used to condemn it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, first of all, I felt—and still do—that Barack Obama inspired me in that campaign.

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘m not talking about you.

MATTHEWS:  You can use phrases like “in the tank,” if you want.  Let‘s take a look at—no, I‘ll stand by my words.  Here...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she can respond, as well.  Reverend?

SHARPTON:  Yes.  First of all, I had nothing to do with the Duke case.  So again, let‘s not rewrite history.  I had nothing to do with the Duke case.  And my representing someone 22 years ago in the Brawley case is certainly a lot different than someone making statements against people that are saying, If he‘s going to have something with my employment, I don‘t want him involved.

And if someone does want to take that position, they have a right to take that position against me, you, or Pat Buchanan.  I don‘t know how you mix apples and oranges.

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me...

SHARPTON:  Those players had the right to raise a question about what he said about them.

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not saying they don‘t have a right to do it.  I‘m commenting on what they did.  Reverend Sharpton, if you were part of a group that was going to buy a baseball or a football team, I don‘t think conservatives in this country would say, No, let‘s cut that fellow out because of what he said 20 years ago or what he said down there in—down there in Louisiana, in that case...

SHARPTON:  I do.

BUCHANAN:  ... the Jena case.  I think...

SHARPTON:  I do.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, I don‘t think they‘d stop you.  This...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON:  Pat, I think conservatives tried to hold Barack Obama responsible for what his former pastor said, not what even he said.  So I mean, how are you saying that?  We saw a whole year where Barack Obama was questioned about everything his former pastor said for 20 years on whether he was qualified to be president of the United States.  We can‘t ask Rush Limbaugh about what he said himself?  Not his pastor, not his former pastor, what he said.

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

SHARPTON:  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, here‘s what Rush Limbaugh said about Reverend Sharpton earlier this week.  Let‘s listen to Limbaugh himself.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I know Reverend Sharpton.  Sharpton‘s better than this.  He knows better than this.  You know, I didn‘t judge Al Sharpton‘s fitness to be in radio when he wanted to earn an honest living for once, given his well documented past, the author of the Brawley hoax.  I believe in freedom, second chances.  And I also don‘t discriminate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Pat?

BUCHANAN:  I think Rush makes a very good point.  I mean, I‘ve condemned Reverend Sharpton over the years and criticized what he said.  I‘ve written columns about him.  I‘m sure he‘s said things about me.  But the idea of going after people the way they‘re making a living—Chris, the real problem in America is not Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews or Pat Buchanan or Al Sharpton, it is censorship!  It is people trying to silence people, to cost them their profession, their jobs because of what they said, even Michael Savage.  People go over the line.

What we ought to be standing up for is the right of people to speak their minds and make their living.  This is so petty, I can‘t believe it!

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at what Rush said...

SHARPTON:  Well, I think Pat...

MATTHEWS:  ... about the NFL.  Let‘s let Rush Limbaugh get in here one more time, then you, Reverend.  Here‘s Rush Limbaugh and what he had to say about the NFL.   Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  It‘s about much more than me.  This is just the latest assault on people who believe in rugged individualism and liberty and freedom, who threaten the whole notion of state-controlled tyranny, and you know, the central command authority, which is what is typified by the Obama administration and now the Democrat Party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the question, Reverend.  And you‘re as wise as anybody at this table, obviously, and you can make a judgment.  Is this about words?  You mentioned two statements he made as objectionable.  Fair enough.  Were those statements, as objectionable as they are, the basis for denying someone a chance to make a major economic investment in a pro football team, yes or no?

SHARPTON:  First...

MATTHEWS:  Those two statements alone, you seem to imply that they were disqualifying.

SHARPTON:  No.  What the answer is, he was not disqualified.  He was withdrawn.  If, in fact, he and his partners felt so strongly about it, his partners should have fought all the way to the NFL and see if he was qualified or not.  Just like they had the right to apply, we had the right to say we oppose the application.  He had the right to go forward.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re dodging the question...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Reverend, do you oppose—did you oppose...

SHARPTON:  No, you‘re trying to misconstrue what happened here.

MATTHEWS:  No, no, no.

SHARPTON:  What happened here is...

MATTHEWS:  You‘re taking your own...

SHARPTON:  ... he was withdrawn.

MATTHEWS:  ... responsibility aside.

SHARPTON:  He was not rejected.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just saying you are a powerful voice in this country.  When you speak out, let‘s face it, the buildings shake.  People do listen to you.  You had a lot to do with the noise level here.  Certainly, the players association was determinant because they are the guys on the field that make the money for these owners.  Yes, we know that.  But you got out there and joined their case.

Are you saying right now that you think Rush Limbaugh should have been allowed to buy part of that team or not?  What do you think?

SHARPTON:  I think that Rush Limbaugh...

MATTHEWS:  In your judgment, based on those two statements by him.

SHARPTON:  I think—in my judgment—in my judgment, if Rush Limbaugh was part of a group that was competing with other groups, and the other groups were able to show that they could do it financially and they had not made offensive statements against the players that generate the money, then I would have ruled for the other groups because I think what Rush Limbaugh did would be something that would be detrimental in competing with other groups.  You got to remember this was a bidding process.  And you have the right...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Those two statements is all I‘m asking, those two statements you say disqualified him in your light.

SHARPTON:  I think—no, in my light, I would have voted against him if I was one of the other owners...

SHARPTON:  ... and some of the owners said yes.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the point here.

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, he wasn‘t engaged in dogfighting, for one thing.  He wasn‘t engaged in shooting himself in the leg.  Other guys have been arrested, implicated in murders.  Everybody says, Give him a second chance, let him play in the NFL.  And because he said some sportswriters cut slack for Donovan McNabb—maybe they did or maybe they didn‘t.  The idea this is a moral disqualification—I mean, what kind of moral community is the NFL owners?

SHARPTON:  Pat, many of us—many of us supported that Michael Vick should have been held accountable for dogfighting, and Plaxico.  So we had the right to say that Donovan McNabb—I mean, that Michael Vick was wrong, but we didn‘t have the right to say...

BUCHANAN:  But a decent man...

SHARPTON:  ... that Mr. Limbaugh was wrong?

BUCHANAN:  A decent man would say...

SHARPTON:  We‘re not talking about...

BUCHANAN:  ... Cut him some slack.

SHARPTON:  We‘re not—we‘re not talking about...

BUCHANAN:  Cut him some slack!  Let Vick play now.  He did his time.

SHARPTON:  Pat, we‘re not talking about him losing his job on the radio.  No one is saying he shouldn‘t be on the air.  No one‘s saying he shouldn‘t have a job.  We‘re saying he shouldn‘t be an owner of a team and not deal with what he said.

BUCHANAN:  Well, what did you say...

SHARPTON:  (INAUDIBLE) his livelihood.

BUCHANAN:  ... Don Imus?  What did you say about Don Imus?  Didn‘t you say he should be taken off the air?

BUCHANAN:  We‘re saying that sponsors should not underwrite—we said that sponsors should not underwrite what he said, and sponsors agreed.

BUCHANAN:  Well!

SHARPTON:  They withdrew him.  And Don Imus said...

BUCHANAN:  Look, you ran a campaign...

SHARPTON:  ... that we were right.

BUCHANAN:  ... to get this guy knocked off the air...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... in the morning.

SHARPTON:  And Don Imus came back and said we were absolutely right, he should have been fired.  Don Imus would be the best witness for us in this case.

SHARPTON:  He said it himself, he should have been fired.

BUCHANAN:  Are you proud of what did you in that case?

SHARPTON:  Especially after Don Imus said I was right, absolutely.  I think he learned his lesson.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  This is a hot issue.  Thank you, Reverend Sharpton, as always, sir.  Thank you for coming on.

SHARPTON:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  I think you were a big part in this issue.  I think that you demur on your authority here I think is wrong.  You carry a lot of weight in this country, and you know it.  Thank you for coming on this program.

Coming up: Wall Street greed nearly destroyed our financial system last year, and now the whiz kids of Wall Street are raking it in, taking record pay as millions of regular folks struggle to make ends meet.  And by the way, nobody‘s getting a COLA for Social Security this year.  These guys are getting that money.  We‘ll ask CNBC‘s Jim Cramer about that little fix.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Here‘s what “The Wall Street Journal” reported Wednesday.  Quote, “Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year, a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street‘s pay culture.  Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to analysis by The Journal.”

With us now, CNBC‘s Jim Cramer, the host of “Mad Money,” and the author of “Jim Cramer‘s Getting Back to Even.”  You know, a lot of people don‘t think we ever get to even in this country, Jim.  They feel that they love the way people that people make money.  They love a guy like Lee Iacocca or Steven Spielberg or anybody that makes something they can imagine actually being made, even if it‘s a service.  They get it.  What they don‘t understand is why people make billions of dollars off of money.

Up on Wall Street, do these guys—and this is a fundamental question.  Do they add to American life, the people making money in hedge funds, on derivatives, on things we can‘t understand?  Are they helping us or just making money off the top?

JIM CRAMER, CNBC “MAD MONEY”:  I worked at Goldman Sachs, and I can tell you unequivocally not helping at all, not one bit.

MATTHEWS:  So why do we have all this money manipulation or money, money, money, exponential money-making based on—what?  Let me ask you this.  What good does a derivative to, securitizing of these mortgages and all that stuff?  And all the money that‘s being made seems to be made in an ether that most of us don‘t even know where to get to or GPS our way to.  What‘s going on?

CRAMER:  Well, let me—let me give you their side of things, first of all, because...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.  That‘s what I want.

CRAMER:  They‘re not attacks on the system, but it‘s just that there is—I think it‘s fair to say that they shuffle paper really well.  They take a cut of every deal, but the deals tend to be done by real companies that create things, and we need to have a croupier to make these cards travel.  And what I think is a shame is that the croupier gets so much more than the people who are actually doing the business.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CRAMER:  A derivative?  Yes, it‘s a bit like an insurance contract, where I want to be able to insure my house from fire.  But the problem with the derivative contracts that you can—I can insure your house for fire and then set it on fire and get paid.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, let me ask you about this question of money making.  We thought that everybody was going down after this big crash almost last year at this time.  And there was a sense that even the big guys suffered a bit.  Everybody took about a 30, 30-something percent cut in their liquid assets.  I think everybody from the person struggling with a 401(k) all the way to the top, everybody took a big loss.

And everybody said, Well, that‘s OK.  Good.  Everybody took a loss.  And now we see people making $140 billion in—I know it‘s part of their income, but bonuses.  And we‘re learning that Goldman has made $3 trillion or whatever, $3 billion.  And this kind of money shocks people because this year, everybody over 65 watching this year is not getting a cost of living adjustment, no raise, period.

So, there‘s a sense of vast inequality out there. 

Your reaction, as a guy who knows the business. 

JIM CRAMER, HOST, “MAD MONEY”:  It is.  These are obscene bonuses. 

I felt that the government should have done with all the banks like it did with Citigroup, which is to get the average guy a share of Citi.  Remember, the government owns 34 percent of Citigroup.  The government is up billions of dollars. 

Why did the government not take stakes that it held on to with all of these guys, given the fact that, once the competitors got knocked out, the Goldmans, the Morgans, the J.P. Morgans, could make a fortune?  We should have had a stake in them that we could then return to the American people and create jobs with.  But we let them make their money without being along for the ride. 

That was a mistake, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there any provision in TARP, that awfully named acronym from last year at this time, where they gave away the $700 billion, is there any string in there where the government can pull now and say, give me back the money we lent?  Is—are they going to get it back, the federal budget, the federal treasury? 

CRAMER:  Oh, I think that the treasury secretary—I think the president should be demanding that all these banks raise money that haven‘t returned it—remember, Goldman did return it, and J.P. Morgan. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

CRAMER:  But to raise the money in the public markets—the stock market‘s going up—we have pierced 10000 -- and say, you give us our money back right now, or we‘re going to raise the interest, because every bank is making a lot of money here, Chris.  And I don‘t want to hear that, oh, it‘s still a fragile time.  They all say that. 

The American people deserve to cash in on these banks.  And we‘re not doing it.  We‘re not pressing the banks for our own cut. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about macroeconomics now. 

The average person out there is worried about the unemployment rate.  It‘s up there knocking up against 10 percent, just at the  time we‘re going over 10000 in the Dow.  That drives a lot of people crazy. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The Dow‘s going over 10000.  Unemployment looks like it‘s going over 10 percent. 

Why the Wrong Way Corrigan?  Why the market coming back and unemployment still rising?

CRAMER:  We are seeing a lot of up—upticks in retail sales.  Auto sales were actually better than we thought.  We saw...

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to have a good holiday?  Are we going to have a good—is it going to be Black Friday, like they said in Philly, on the day after Thanksgiving?  Are they going to make money or not? 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAMER:  You bet.  Yes, Wanamaker‘s will be jammed.  We‘re going to see a very good holiday season.  September was very strong.  October was extremely strong. 

We‘re going to surprise—America will surprise each other.  We are going to have a very strong holiday season.  And that‘s across the board, whether it be from Macy‘s or Home Depot or Saks or Target or Family Dollar.  We‘re spending, and we actually have some money, and we‘re starting to feel a little more secure. 

MATTHEWS:  Will that auger well for a reduction in the unemployment rate next year?  Because that‘s the only measure most of us in the news business and most people think about.  The unemployment rate is at 9.8.  Will it go above 10?  Will it drop below 8 or 7 by next election?  How is that for a political question?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will it be down below 8 or 7 by next October? 

CRAMER:  We‘re not creating enough jobs.  That will not happen.  We will not get that low.  We will flirt with 10.

MATTHEWS:  So, next Halloween is going to be bad for the Dems? 

CRAMER:  I think that, unless they create some real jobs, a $2.2 trillion infrastructure bill would be a lot better than we have got.  Chris, the Democrats will get hurt badly, because we‘re not creating jobs.  There‘s prosperity for a small group of people, not enough to go around, and there‘s no job creation. 

It is a—it is a profitable period for many companies, and it‘s not creating any jobs. 

MATTHEWS:  Where did the $800 billion go in the stimulus bill? 

CRAMER:  Well, I think a lot of it went to state and local governments.  A lot of it went to people who actually have the kind of tenure that most workers would like, people who work for governments. 

And I think...

MATTHEWS:  Exactly where it went. 

CRAMER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It went to pay off, so that mayors wouldn‘t go broke and they wouldn‘t have to go with layoffs. 

CRAMER:  True.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

CRAMER:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  It went to pay off old bills. 

Thank you, Jim.

It didn‘t create new jobs.  I don‘t smell construction. 

CRAMER:  Not at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.

It‘s great.  Have a nice weekend...

CRAMER:  Thank you.  You, too.

MATTHEWS:  ... Jim Cramer.  It‘s great having you on. 

You can watch, by the way, “Mad Money” weeknights at 6:00 and 11:00 Eastern on CNBC. 

Up next:  So, how much—much more popular is Hillary Clinton than the guy who beat her last year?  Hillary Clinton you know, when you get out of the line of fire, politically, it‘s amazing how you warm up the public. 

Anyway, the answer is coming up in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First up: in harm‘s way. 

NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell gave an interview to Rachel Maddow, talking about the inequality of professional opportunity back in the news business during the Three Mile Island episode back in ‘79.  In the first week of that nuclear disaster, it turns out that Andrea‘s boss, the bureau chief, sent out all the male reporters to cover that event, but the only two women reporters were cut out of the action. 

So, here‘s what Andrea and her colleague did. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT:  So, finally, we Friday night came, and we marched into his office and said, why is it that we‘re the only two correspondents that have not been sent? 

And the bureau chief said, because you‘re women of child-bearing age, and we don‘t know how bad the radiation is. 

And I said, has it occurred to you that men‘s balls are as vulnerable as women‘s ovaries? 

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  This was back in the ‘70s, when no one talked that way. 

(LAUGHTER)

MITCHELL:  So...

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”:  And the response was? 

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL:  I got sent the next day. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  God.  Anyway, no comment there. 

Next up: wagging the dog.  Remember when the politicians were the leaders, and the commentators on radio and TV just followed along, commenting?  Remember when the elected officials were the real leaders? 

Well, guess what?  To get ahead in Republican politics these days, an elected official needs to act more like a radio talk jock, you know, say crazy, over-the-top stuff.  Check out the career arc of Minnesota‘s Michele Bachmann.  She has got a profile on the front page of today‘s “New York Times” just about at the fold, with the headline, “GOP has a lightning wrong, and her name is not Palin.”

Well, “The Times” highlights the Minnesota congresswoman‘s outlandish comments on HARDBALL last year, when the congresswoman said she was very concerned that Mr. Obama—quote—“may have anti-American views.”

And, by the way, she also called on the media during that HARDBALL interview to investigate congressional Democrats for what she called anti-American views. 

Well, this apparently is the right stuff, as far as the right is concerned these days.  If you want to rise in the party and get on the front page of “The New York Times,” forget the boring, legislative grind of being an actual member of Congress, you know, someone who does something.  Just get out on the air and say stuff that makes you sound as wild as the radio commentators are.

Finally, Beau ideal?  Beau Biden, son of the vice president, has just gotten back from a one-year tour of duty in Iraq with the Delaware National Guard.  In his first TV interview since getting home, he talked about expectations that he will run for his father‘s Senate seat in Delaware. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have a big Republican that‘s looking to run for this seat that was held by your father.  When do you make the decision?  I won‘t put you on the spot too much.

BEAU BIDEN, DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But when do you have to make that decision of whether you run for Senate? 

BIDEN:  Well, you know, I have been away from my family for a year.  First things first.  I‘m going to keep holding onto that guy you saw on the TV screen, as well as my daughter, Natalie, who‘s probably mad she‘s not on TV this morning.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:  But—and then get back to my job as the attorney general in the state of Delaware. 

Look, am I considering it?  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  But I will be making the decision in due course. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this race in little old Delaware‘s going to be one of the most exciting races in the country this year if it‘s an Iraq vet and a 71-year-old. 

Tonight‘s “Big Number,” by the way, hearkens back to that late great Democratic battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  As the country‘s senior stateswoman now, Hillary Clinton has taken herself out of the political fray.  She‘s no longer building up scar tissue from bruising battles over domestic policy, like health care and unemployment.  And it shows. 

Back in January, Barack Obama‘s favorable ratings were sky high at 78 percent, while Hillary‘s were lower, a still respectable 65.  Well, after bruising battles on health care, the president is now hovering at 56 percent.  Where‘s Hillary?  Sixty-two percent, higher than the guy who beat her—Hillary‘s favorability up to 62 percent, and rising.  Likable.  Well, likable enough, in fact more than likable enough right now—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Next time you fly, why do you—well, do you want a pilot up there in that pilot seat who is the cheapest pilot the airline could find?  Obviously, that‘s a Socratic question, a rhetorical question, if you will.  Not me.  The pilot of that U.S. Airlines jetliner that made a miracle landing on the Hudson River, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, doesn‘t think that‘s a good idea, to go with the cheapest.  He‘s coming here next and sitting right there. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m David Shuster. 

An intense search continues right now in Colorado for a missing 6-year-old boy.  Falcon Heene was believed to have been inside this helium balloon constructed by his father when it came untethered earlier today at the family home in Fort Collins. 

The balloon drifted for two hours, reaching an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, before helium seeped out and the craft drifted downwards.  It eventually landed 45 miles to the southeast near Prospect Reservoir. 

Authorities believe the 6-year-old boy climbed into a box-like compartment attached to the balloon when it lifted out, but missing when it landed.  Authorities are now investigating numerous reports of something falling off the balloon mid-flight.  In this photo, you can see a piece of the balloon appearing to fall. 

Authorities described Richard Heene, the father, as an amateur scientist and storm-chaser who participated last in a reality TV show last called “Wife Swap.”  The family has not issued any statements about the mishap today or the ongoing search. 

I‘m David Shuster—now back to HARDBALL with Chris Matthews. 

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back to HARDBALL, and a rare personal honor for me.

I have got a man sitting in front of me, one of the rarities, Captain Sullenberger.  Of course, he safely piloted his disabled jet on the Hudson River, landing it, last winter, by the way.  Look at that picture.  Everybody remembers this.  The passengers and crew all made it.  What a scene.  And it took, well, cool courage under fire.  I think Hemingway called it, what, grace under pressure. 

Good work, Captain. 

CAPTAIN CHESLEY “SULLY” SULLENBERGER III, PILOT:  Thanks, Chris.  Good to be here. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s great to—I want to be on your plane. 

Anyway, you have logged more than 19,000 hours of flying time at the controls.  Joining us now is the man.  The name of the book is “Highest Duty.”

You‘re very proud of this book, right? 

SULLENBERGER:  It was a labor of love. 

A lot of the book was already in me.  I have a lifetime of stories to tell, and about not only the event, but how—about my life leading up to the event prepared me for the event and the aftermath. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it like to get into a plane—I mean, I have flown a lot.  I am flying tonight—flying tonight out West.  And when you get in a plane, is there an adrenaline rush, or is it like being an old pro and it‘s just no change in the blood pressure?  You‘re going to go up to 39,000 feet.  You‘re in charge.  The weather could be awful. 

Do you get a—do you—do you have a different attitude about the weather when it‘s going up there?  Is it going to be a tough night?  Is it going to be an easy night? 

SULLENBERGER:  Well, you know what?  We have different levels of alertness, and we‘re aware of everything going on around us, and we take great pride in knowing exactly what the most important thing to be paying attention to at any given moment of the flight is. 

So, when it gets harder or—or more challenging, we just pay more attention to more, different things. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when I get up there, when I‘m not praying in an airplane over it—when there‘s turbulence, I always try to look at the eye of the flight attendant and see if they‘re bored, and it‘s the same old job...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... and if they‘re just getting the food out or they‘re just doing something. 

If I see anything that looks like nervousness, then I am very nervous. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is the flight attendant a pretty good guide to how tricky it is up there? 

SULLENBERGER:  Absolutely. 

In fact, one of the things I talk about in my book is that, on January 15, not only did we have the luxury of having very well-seasoned business travelers as passengers, but we had a highly experienced and highly trained flight attendant crew.

And I think they, by exiting a calm, professional demeanor, kept the cabin calm. 

MATTHEWS:  But I don‘t want to hear that.  I want to know...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... that, if it‘s really dangerous up there, that they‘re going to show it somehow with their eye ticking up and down or something. 

SULLENBERGER:  They...

MATTHEWS:  I had one flight attendant who is—when we went through one of those shearing instances down here in Carolina years ago, my wife and I, when the shoes were hitting the ceiling and the drinks were hitting the ceiling, and she‘s sitting next to me—she‘s flying—she was flying as a passenger on a plane. 

She said, “We‘re about to go into a tailspin.”  That was her comment. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  So, I have been...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I have been through some hairy situations. 

But you been ever in one of those shearing situations...

SULLENBERGER:  No.

MATTHEWS:  ... where the plane, it just drops a couple thousand feet? 

SULLENBERGER:  No, I—I have not. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I have been there. 

OK.  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

SULLENBERGER:  Keep your seat belt fastened. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course. 

Let me ask you—OK, let‘s talk about the thing we love to talk about, the—I want to talk trouble with you.  And I want to talk about American life right now.  When I get on a plane, I want to know that the guy or woman up front flying that plane knows what they‘re doing.  I want a pro up there, like if I‘m being operated on, right? 

SULLENBERGER:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we putting the best people up in those cockpits right now, or are we putting the cheapest people up there? 

SULLENBERGER:  Well, you wouldn‘t want your surgeon to be the lowest bidder. 

And I—I had the great luxury on January 15 of flying with Jeffrey Skiles.  I couldn‘t have had a better colleague that day or since.  And he, like I, have 20,000 hours of flying time.  He had been a captain at this airline before the staff reductions.  And he knew exactly what to do, the same as I did. 

It‘s important that we have experience in both seats.  This House bill that was passed—passed yesterday will increase the level of experience in both seats of airliners going forward.  It‘s going to require for the first time that both pilots, and not just the captain, have an airline transport pilot certificate.  That‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And 1,500 hours or... 

SULLENBERGER:  Fifteen hours vs a minimum... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Not 200? 

SULLENBERGER:  Not 250.  That‘s a huge difference. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SULLENBERGER:  It‘s a good step. 

But there are still issues that we need to do.  And my message is really very simple.  I spent my life learning what makes aviation safer, and I have learned that economics and safety do have a linkage. 

And one of the reasons historically we have been able to make aviation so safe is that many of the airline operators have chosen to greatly exceed the FAA bare bones minimums in many areas.  Now, under this time of great economic financial hardship, with tremendous cost pressures, we‘re seeing some of those extra margins being cut. 

I also think that if we keep pilots‘ salaries this low, we may not be able to, in the future, attract the best and the brightest.  If this were an easy job, then anybody—anybody could do it. 

MATTHEWS:  What does a senior pilot make, who flies one of these big planes across the country, 150, 200 a year? 

SULLENBERGER:  Some of the higher ranges are -- 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s high. 

SULLENBERGER:  That‘s high. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s high.  Once in a while—because I‘m in the business I‘m in, and I love this job—I meet people and I‘m very approachable.  People come up to me and they tell me, they just screwed us.  They took away our pensions.  How often has that gone on?  I have been checking it out.  Some of the producers here have checked it out.  Some of the airlines have just gotten rid of—your airline, United, Delta, some of these have eliminated vested pensions. 

SULLENBERGER:  Oh, I know.  What Americans are going through now, and have been for a year or two, airline employees have been going through for eight years or more, certainly since the September 2001 terror attacks. 

MATTHEWS:  Losing your pensions. 

SULLENBERGER:  Absolutely.  I have taken a 40 percent pay cut.  I have lost my pension.  It‘s been replaced by a pennies on the dollar PPG guarantee.  And I was a captain and managed to stay a captain. 

People like Jeffrey Skiles, who were a captain and went back to first officer, took about a 60 percent pay cut. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s this thing about how you smell the food, the nice food cooking in first class, and you‘re eating a peanut butter sandwich. 

SULLENBERGER:  In the book—I brown bag it.  I told you in the book. 

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t they let you have one of the meals? 

SULLENBERGER:  They don‘t board a meal for us. 

MATTHEWS:  But I see the flight attendants walking into the captain‘s

·         into the cockpits with meals or coffee.  Don‘t they bring the meal to you? 

SULLENBERGER:  On some airlines, they still board meals for the crew.  Occasionally, if there‘s food left in back, on rare occasions, if the flight attendant don‘t eat it first, they offer it to the pilots. 

MATTHEWS:  You mean, if everybody says, I want my meal, you guys go hungry. 

SULLENBERGER:  You have to bring your own.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s unbelievable they‘re that chincy.  When did that start? 

SULLENBERGER:  That‘s been going on several years. 

MATTHEWS:  So when you‘re flying say from—just, for example, Washington to L.A., which I‘m doing tonight, you‘re going to do that on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? 

SULLENBERGER:  Hopefully, I will have time to get something better than that in the terminal and pay my 12 dollars for it, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t get the free meal? 

SULLENBERGER:  No. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  What does this do to safety, to have pilots squeezed down in salary and retirement plans?  At some point, you have to quit, and you have to face the pension as your main source of—at least your base income.  It‘s going to keep people flying longer than they should, right?  Right?

SULLENBERGER:  Yes.  They just raised the retirement age about two years ago from 60 to 65.  So it will give more people a chance to have a little bit more years of earning power.  But I lost my pension when I was in my 50s with very little time to make it up. 

MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do about it?  You‘re selling a book now, but you‘re a rarity. 

SULLENBERGER:  It‘s amazing the extreme to which I had to personally go to try to make up some of what we have lost as an industry.  So I‘m—the first priority for me is to take care of my family, rebuild my pension, rebuild my kids‘ college funds. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I thought United was an employee-owned firm, one of those firms that‘s employee owned now. 

SULLENBERGER:  United I think was for a while. 

MATTHEWS:  But did that—did they screw the pilots there, too, when they got to vote on it. 

SULLENBERGER:  I don‘t work for United. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You work for US Air, which is a great airline, by the way. 

SULLENBERGER:  All of the airlines, with a few exceptions, Continental and American, managed to keep their pensions. 

MATTHEWS:  This is depressing. 

SULLENBERGER:  Northwest froze—

MATTHEWS:  You know what?  I remember that movie with—what‘s his name—Leonardo Dicaprio playing you guys in the ‘60s, early ‘60s—

SULLENBERGER:  “Catch Me If You Can.”

MATTHEWS:  The sharp uniforms.  The flight attendants were sharp.  It was very cool.  There was a lot of esprit de corps, a lot of pride.  Everybody wanted to be a flight attendant.  We used to call them stewardesses.  Everybody wanted to be an airline pilot.  Is that still the case?  You getting the best and the brightest in your business? 

SULLENBERGER:  I don‘t know a single professional pilot who wants their children following in their footsteps.  And that concerns me.  This is a profession I love and I care about greatly.  We can‘t afford to rely on the investments made by previous generations to keep the safety trend going in the right direction.  We have to continue to make new investments, and investments not only in technology, investments not only in the system, but in people. 

MATTHEWS:  You got any good news, besides you exist? 

SULLENBERGER:  Jeff Skiles is out there with the same -- 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s buy this book.  This is a romantic story of what it‘s like to be a great pilot, and what it‘s like to have been through all of those—how many years—how many hours? 

SULLENBERGER:  Um, 20,000 hours, 42 years flying, almost 30 at the airline. 

MATTHEWS:  A lot of stories, and they‘re all in here.  And you were just dying to tell them. 

SULLENBERGER:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m glad you were a hero for everybody on that plane and for all of us.  It does inspire me.  Sometimes I think the squares are the really good guys.  Like you, you‘re a square. 

Up next, so Hillary Clinton‘s more popular than Barack Obama.  What kind of world is this?  Just kidding.  We‘re going to get into that in the politics fix.  This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back in time for the politics fix, with Ruben Navarette of the “San Diego Union Tribune” and Anne Kornblut of the “Washington Post.”  Thank you very much, Ruben and—

We‘re going to talk about something I am going to surprise with you.  That‘s this new poll out just now that shows that Hillary Clinton is now beating Barack Obama 62/56.  It‘s a Gallup poll, therefore very authentic, 62/56.  Big change from where it was at the beginning of the year, when she was way down from him. 

You‘re thoughts about this.  Is this about duty?  Is this about getting out of the line of fire politically?  What is this about? 

ANNE KORNBLUT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, look, it is about duty in part.  She has decided to announce that she‘s not going to run again.  And I think she wants to change the subject.  I think she wants to convince people.  She says it in one interview and then another. 

MATTHEWS:  So it‘s tactical? 

KORNBLUT:  No, I think she actually means it.  I have interviewed people around her, and some are divided.  They‘re all divided.  Some people think that this is temporary, short term; she‘s focused on her job.  Other people think no, she means it. 

MATTHEWS:  Is she playing possum politically, though?  You know what that means. 

KORNBLUT:  Pretending that she‘s not going to run? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  I think there‘s always the possibility she could change her mind. 

MATTHEWS:  Right now, do you think—you‘re a good reader of her.  You have written a book about her.  Do you think that she is an authentic person when it comes to her career sense right now, where she‘s headed? 

KORNBLUT:  I think she‘s not being coy.  She‘s a politician. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought it was so staggering and so unnecessary, Ruben, I was blown away from it.  Especially when she said that incredible statement, retirement.  No politician retires.  Their idea of retirement is joining a law firm and knocking out op-ed pieces for newspapers so they can stay in the game.  The idea of actually leaving—I think Ed Musky was the last guy to walk from the business. 

RUBEN NAVARETTE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST:  I believe too she‘s going to back away from it.  But again, never say never in this business.  With her, I think this poll is about something else, about buyer‘s remorse on the part of liberal Democrats, who are disappointed with Obama on a number of fronts.  Most recently on the Baucus bill.  If he signs the Baucus bill without a public option, you‘ll see a big uproar on the left.  Likewise on immigration, there‘s concern that he gotten to that issue soon enough. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  Let me get—you‘re use thing as an opportunity to make a case here.  This has nothing to do with Hillary or Barack.  It has to do with you.  You are making the case that you don‘t like this bill without a public option.  So I will now jam you, sir, since you exposed yourself here.  How does he not sign the bill?  He has two choices.  The bill sits in front of him, he signs it or not.  You say don‘t sign a health care bill.  Don‘t be the Democrat in history to have a health care bill?   

NAVARETTE:  Here‘s what I like—

MATTHEWS:  Answer the question.  You‘re saying don‘t sign it? 

NAVARETTE:  I‘m saying, if you want real health care reform, don‘t sign it.  That‘s what I‘m saying.  I‘m saying don‘t call it health care reform if it really isn‘t.  I‘m personally am against the idea of a public option.  But what I find very interesting is this idea that the left is saying, listen, we‘re not going to support a bill without a public option.  They may even turn against him if he signs this and doesn‘t veto it. 

So I see a lot of disgruntled folks on the left.  The civil libertarians are upset.  His anti-terror policy, Chris, looks just like the Bush administration‘s anti-terror policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s stay on this topic.  A lot of these people that talk about him not signing it have never run for office, never helped anybody run for office, never worked a precinct.  By the way, bottom line, they can‘t count.  It takes 60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House.  You tell me how to get a public option through the Senate.  How do you do it? 

NAVARETTE:  It‘s a very good point.  I read the editorials in the “New York Times.”

MATTHEWS:  It‘s called reality. 

NAVARETTE:  I hear you, Chris.  I‘m not against you on this.  I think there are a lot of pundits out there, again, who don‘t have to worry about doing a head count in the Senate.  And they say why not stick a public option in there?  You put a public option in there, you lose Olympia Snowe and a lot of those conservative Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  I think you lose 30 Democrats, because the last time I saw, 30 Democrats out of 60 said—Anne, check me on this.  Only 30 said they‘re for the public option. 

KORNBLUT:  They don‘t have it within the Democratic caucus.  There‘s no chance of it at this point, no. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s why they stopped talking about this reconciliation and doing it with 50, because they only had 30. 

OK, let me ask you about Hillary Clinton, because I find her fascinating.  She has really committed to this job of secretary of state.  She‘s got fine people around her.  You talked to Chris Hill in Iraq, Jack Lewis (ph) an old colleague of mine, incredibly smart, hard-working people.  And also, until this issue came along of Afghanistan, not even a bit of light between her and the president. 

KORNBLUT:  That‘s right.  What‘s interesting about her and Afghanistan is we‘ve heard out of these war council meetings in the White House a lot of different points of view.  We know where the vice president is.  We know where General McCrystal is.  We don‘t know where Secretary Clinton is.  We know she and Defense Secretary Gates see eye to eye.  We‘ve heard that much. 

But she‘s been playing her cards very close to her vest.  It seems like she‘ll probably come down in the middle.  But she has not been doing any leaking.  That is something that is very new.

MATTHEWS:  Does she still have those people around her who do all dirty leaking and stuff?  Or did she get rid of them? 

KORNBLUT:  It‘s not a political campaign anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  She got rid of those people? 

KORNBLUT:  It‘s not the political team. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, she a bunch.  All they did was go around and leak all the nasty stuff.  We‘ll be right back with Ruben Navarette and Anne Kornblut about something that‘s really divisive in this country.  That‘s the huge amount of money being made on Wall Street, while nobody else is making it.  You‘re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Ruben Navarette and Anne Kornblut for more

of the politics fix.  Ruben, now we‘re going to sing the same song, you and

I.    What do you think of the fact that the people on Wall Street—Goldman just made three billion this quarter.  What do you think about the fact they made more, 140 billion dollars, spread around, than they made before the almost crashed.  Here‘s Larry Summers, a very smart guy, trying to explain it.  I say trying. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC ANCHOR:  Is there anything more that your administration can do about that 140 billion dollars right now? 

LARRY SUMMERS, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL:  The real question for our financial system isn‘t if some people succeed.  It‘s if some people succeed while others are left behind.  If we‘re not seeing the kind of lending we should to small businesses, if people are not carrying through on an aggressive program to mitigate foreclosures -- 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Spoken like the best and the brightest.  Unfortunately, other people are being left behind, Anne Kornblut.  We have an unemployment rate going over 10 percent, at the same time the Dow Jones is going over 10.  They‘re going in different directions. 

KORNBLUT:  They made the case early on that they had to save Wall Street in order to save Main Street, and they stopped with the Wall Street part.  It never translated. 

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s with this—why are they playing defense for Wall Street?  Why is Larry there defending such a huge amount of money being made on the street? 

NAVARETTE:  Because Larry is thinking about his next job after he leaves the administration, going back to Wall Street. 

MATTHEWS:  I always think of that.  You said it.  You don‘t know that. 

NAVARETTE:  Yes, it‘s happened before. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  It‘s called the revolving door. 

NAVARETTE:  The bottom line here is I disagree with Larry Summers.  This is not about being people left behind.  That‘s not the problem.  The problem is you and I work—all Americans work in industries where, if you do well, you get rewards and bonuses and promotions.  Here, you get rewarded for companies that fail, whether you be Merrill Lynch or whatever.  It doesn‘t make any sense to most people.  People bankrupt the company, here‘s 16 billion dollars on your way out the door.  It doesn‘t make sense.

MATTHEWS:  How do they get paid all this money if they‘re not doing well?  Somebody is doing well up there on the street. 

NAVARETTE:  In many cases, the companies fail and then they turn around and, to get rid of these people, they give them large amounts of money.  It doesn‘t make sense.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Anne on the bigger question.  Is this going to hurt the president?  At some point, are people going to say, wait a minute, we elected a populist Democrat, someone center left, not far left, but center left, and yet we have a reality out there that still seems to benefit money? 

KORNBLUT:  Absolutely.  They have to respond to this.  We have to see some more outrage.  We saw it early on. 

MATTHEWS:  Not a speech, please. 

KORNBLUT:  No.  I think actually outrage, some kind of emotion from him that we saw earlier, but then actually some kind of result, some discussion of pay caps, something. 

MATTHEWS:  I think they got to go back and grab some of that money back, that 700 billion.  Don‘t you think, Ruben, Tarp money, take it back. 

Thank you, Ruben Navarette and Anne Kornblut.  Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.  Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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

END   

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