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updated 10/20/2009 10:28:16 AM ET 2009-10-20T14:28:16

HARDBALL

October 19, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

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

Guests: Joan Walsh, Howard Fineman, Ned Lamont, Maria Shriver, Rep. Joe Sestak

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The Fox hunt.

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews in Philadelphia for the fourth game of the National League championship series. Leading off tonight, the lion and the Fox. To those on the right, the latest war started when White House spokesman Anita Dunn referred to Fox News as "opinion journalism masquerading as news." To those on the left, the war began much earlier, with Fox's right-leaning anti-Obama line-up. Either way, what's the end game for the White House in trying to freeze out Fox? Why take on an opponent who just might get stronger over time? Why start a war you don't plan on winning?

Plus: Of all the races coming up that matter to me, none is more interesting than the Senate race here in Pennsylvania. Arlen Specter might have thought he'd gotten a free ride to the nomination by his new party, the Democrats, but along came Joe Sestak who today was endorsed by Ned Lamont. He was the guy who took the Democratic nomination away from Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. Sestak and Lamont play HARDBALL right here in Philly tonight.

Also, Maria Shriver, the author of "The Shriver report: A Women's Nation Changes Everything." We'll talk to Maria about women in American politics and how they could just well decide the hottest issues out there, health care and that unemployment rate that's there.

Plus, let's try to answer the following question. Is President Obama showing weakness in delaying a decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan, or is he simply smart to see first whether there's a government there in Kabul we can back up? That's in the "Politics Fix" tonight.

And finally, what were the parents of that "balloon boy" thinking when they roped a whole country into thinking-well, let's put it this way, the sheriff now figures all that was an elaborate and dangerous hoax. I've got some ideas on that in the "Sideshow."

First, the White House versus Fox News channel. Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst, and Eugene Robinson is a columnist for "The Washington Post," and of course, an MSNBC political columnist (SIC).

Let's take a look right now at some thoughts here. This is Anita Dunn talking about Fox News earlier this month. She said, "It's opinion journalism masquerading as news." And then Ms. Dunn went further. She told CNN, quote, "The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."

Well, Axelrod this weekend also was quite clear. Here's David Axelrod. Let's listen to him. He's the president's communications director. Here's what he had to say over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: The only argument Anita was making is that they're not really a news station. If you watch even-it's not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming, it's really not news, it's pushing a point of view. And the bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way and we're not going to treat them that way. We're going to appear on their shows, we're going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan, we know why Fox is Fox. It's because it's Fox. But why is the White House going after Fox now?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as you know, as author of Agnew's speeches attacking the networks back in 1969, which started this world war, they've got a perfect right to do so, Chris. The question is the wisdom and justice of what they are doing.

MATTHEWS: Were you right?

BUCHANAN: Certainly, we were right. We couldn't even get our message through the national networks. We had to speak out. We did that out of necessity, not out of some kind of planning.

But let me get back to Fox. So they've got the right to do this in the White House, and they feel their message is being distorted or suppressed. But I think the wisdom of it is really in question. It not only elevates Fox, it sounds whiny. It sounds like Fox has gotten under their skin. And it's unfair in the sense that I don't know that the White House correspondents and some of the news guys and news anchors are the same as our friends Beck and Hannity...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUCHANAN: ... and O'Reilly, who do have point of view journalism and don't hide it. So I think it's a mistake on the part of the White House, but nobody can deny that they've got a right to say what they want to say.

MATTHEWS: Well, I might disagree with that. But let me go to you, Gene, for your thoughts. I think, when I get up in the morning and I listen to Fox on satellite radio, I do hear a certain sort of an anthematic (ph) and endless sort of point of view. But that's all right. They do have straight journalists, Major Garrett, certainly Shepard Smith. These are very classy journalists. I think, you know, Brit Hume-they've had some real heavyweights over there over the years.

But your thoughts, Gene, about Fox and the decision by this administration to play lion and go after that Fox.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one thing I would say is that in the midst of this discussion, Is Obama tough enough, will he take on his opponents-well, he did in this case, and everybody's saying, Oh, no, he shouldn't have.

Now, that said, I actually don't think he should have in this case. I tend to agree with Pat that it elevates Fox to a level of equality or perceived equality with the White House. I think the White House should take-it should have the posture of looking down its nose at news organizations. He's the president of the United States, and he shouldn't seem to be bothered by that.

And they genuinely believe, I think, at the White House, that Fox skews the news, and that obviously bothers them and they feel they can't get their message through. But the old saying, Don't pick a fight with somebody who buys ink by the barrel-well, that might be outdated now, but don't-you know, why pick a fight with somebody who's got 24 hours a day, seven days a week, worth of air time to fill.

MATTHEWS: Well, there's another old expression...

ROBINSON: It doesn't seem to be a winning...

MATTHEWS: The other old expression...

ROBINSON: ... a winning (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: The other old expression, Pat, whether it's applicable or not, is, Don't get in a peeing match with a skunk.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think I would use Nixon's statement to me. He said, Pat, never shoot down.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BUCHANAN: This is the White House, after all, Chris. And as I've mentioned to you before, would you be really concerned and outraged if President George Bush or Dick Cheney got up and said, Stop listening to Chris Matthews, I've heard enough of him and he's distorting the news, and things like that? That's going to elevate you, it's not going to diminish you, when the vice president or president of the United States gets in a fight with a journalist.

Secondly, I agree with you about Brit Hume was a tough customer, a good journalist. I think Shep is objective. I think Major Garrett is objective. They may be personally conservative, but they're also newsmen...

MATTHEWS: Right.

BUCHANAN: ... and they behave as newsmen. And so I think it's a mistake on the part of the White House. I don't see...

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go...

BUCHANAN: Chris, what benefit do they get?

MATTHEWS: OK, let me-let me try two motives by you. I have a sense, Gene-you start here-that the White House is afraid-let's (INAUDIBLE) this. They're playing defense. They didn't change on a dime on this for no reason. They may have research that shows, sure, conservatives are already largely by and large against them and will vote against them in the next year's election, sure. But independent voters-and there's all kinds of independents out there, the people that don't pay much attention to politics. But I'm understanding from some of the data I heard on CNN this morning that a lot of the people, maybe the majority, who watch Fox are, quote, "self-described independents."

They may be afraid that the relentless attack on them from Fox commentators is hurting them among independents and they've got to call them for what they are, or else people who are independent will believe this is factual, these shots from the-from, basically, the primetime lineup.

ROBINSON: Well, that's an interesting theory...

MATTHEWS: Would that be it?

ROBINSON: That's an interesting theory. I'm not sure that's exactly right. You've said something that I do buy, which is call them for what the White House believes they are. I think there is some concern about the extent to which Fox is able to set some sort of news agenda. And if the White House believes that agenda is skewed and is directed against the White House and its-and its policies and-then perhaps the White House believes it is important to call-call it as they see it. But again, it's-I'm not sure of the tactic. I think I would...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUCHANAN: Chris?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Eugene, you don't agree with me. Do you think they're worried that independent voters are get culled from the herd of independents by successful opinionating by people like Glenn Beck and people like...

ROBINSON: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Your response.

BUCHANAN: Yes, I do, for this reason. Yes, I do, Chris, for this reason. As I've mentioned to you before, the tea party town hall people are not Republicans. Many of them loathe Republicans. When they have gatherings, they don't want any elected politicians there. And I think Beck is a particular, is reaching those folks. And they're beyond the Republican constituency that really relies heavily, I think, on Fox. And they are-and they are being motivated very much by Beck and some of these other folks.

But I don't think that-to be honest, that Axelrod or Dunn can be effective in going after these folks. They'll brush them right off.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me ask you about the other possibility. Is there any chance they believe that they can cower Roger Ailes, the head of Fox? In other words...

ROBINSON: No. Why would you...

MATTHEWS: ... do they think they can-I'm just guessing, Gene. Do they think they might...

ROBINSON: Roger Ailes?

MATTHEWS: ... brush him back? Brush him back?

ROBINSON: Why would you-why would you think that? I mean, Roger Ailes's success at Fox is based on his reputation as a pugnacious street fighter kind of guy. This can only be good for the network, from his point of view. It makes him more controversial...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: ... and it-people-it perhaps makes people tune in to see, Well, what's the big fuss about anyhow? I'm not convinced that the White House is all that worried about impressionable independent voters. The tea party folks that Pat is talking about-I'm not sure those were Obama folks to begin with.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: But I do-I do wonder about this sort of agenda-setting concept (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN: Chris, I do think there's one point on which the-Fox has got to watch itself, is frankly, if the perception comes out, by constantly being hit by these folks, that this is not really a legitimate news organization. I think you could get some pullback from them, and some-if you will, some outreach to try to get somebody as commentators or others to balance it.

I know when we hit "The New York Times," for example, in the '60s, all of a sudden, they blossomed with an op-ed page that had some conservatives on it and conservative voices there, and all the other newspapers did, as well.

MATTHEWS: That's how you got Bill his job. Is that how you got Bill Safire his job?

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Well, listen, they went out looking for conservative-that's how I got my job! Create-create-a vacuum out there and a real demand, you've got to put these people on, Chris, and go to work and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me-let's go to the business end. Let's go to the business end of Fox News network. Every time-this has nothing to do with criticism, it's just news analysis. I mean this. Every time Rupert Murdoch buys a property, whether it's "The Times of London" or it's "The New York Post," he has a very simple business model. Check me on this, Pat. And it's not about ideology. He knows what he's doing. He takes a down market and he takes it to the right, always to the right. He's always done it, whether it's "The Times" of London or "The New York Post." I think he did it with "The Herald," although that was pretty right to begin with.

So it's consistent that he would form a national network that's down market (INAUDIBLE) you could argue whether it's down market, but there's a lot of angry white people, working people that like it. Is this a business model he's followed here, and all he's done is do that? It's just business.

BUCHANAN: Well, it's more-yes, but it is business, but I'll tell you, he moves it more in the direction of a populist right. Take "The New York Post," which was Dorothy Schiff's (ph) -- the most liberal paper in New York. He makes these news things-they survive, Chris. If it hadn't been for him, they would have all gone under. "The New York Post" became a great success when he bought it in '76. But you're right, he moved it very much to the conservative right as it was on really the populist right...

MATTHEWS: And down market.

ROBINSON: Well, but "The New York Post"...

MATTHEWS: And down market.

ROBINSON: ... is a vanity publication, though. I mean, he loses money on "The New York Post." He doesn't lose any money on Fox News. I think he just saw a business opportunity. He saw the vacuum, a vacuum on the right on cable, and he went for it. And he got the right guy to execute it for him.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUCHANAN: That's not fair. That's not fair for this reason. Look, I talked to Rupert once. He was really interested in "The Wall Street Journal." He was interested in "The Financial Times." He wants these great publications to-I mean, he put money-I don't agree with "The Weekly Standard," but clearly, he's not making a lot of money off that. That wasn't downscale. I think he also wants to be a respected journalistic figure...

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK, bottom line.

BUCHANAN: ... and a power.

MATTHEWS: Bottom line time. One word, yes or no. Was the White House smart, was Anita Hill (SIC) smart, is Axelrod smart, is Rahm smart, is the president smart to take a whack at an-Anita Dunn-at an adversarial news organization? Pat, first.

BUCHANAN: No, and they will back off.

MATTHEWS: Gene?

ROBINSON: I say no, I don't think it was a wise thing. I wouldn't have done it.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Pat Buchanan and Gene Robinson, the wise men.

Coming up: The new Senate race is a hot one here in Pennsylvania between Arlen Specter and his primary challenger on the Democratic side, Joe Sestak, the former admirable. Today Congressman Sestak got a boost from Ned Lamont, the guy who knocked out Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party briefly there-well, maybe permanently-up in Connecticut. Sestak and Lamont are coming here next.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Three years ago, businessman Ned Lamont rode an anti-war tidal wave to defeat Joe Lieberman in a Democratic primary. Well, Lieberman turned independent and beat Lamont to keep his seat, but Lamont is still a big deal for many Democrats. Today he endorsed U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary here in Pennsylvania against Senator Specter. They both join me here in Philly right now, Sestak and Ned Lamont.

Ned, why did you do it? Why are you here in Philly making the case for the challenger here, the David against the Goliath, you might say right now?

NED LAMONT (D), FORMER CT SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, Chris, it's great to be back with you and I'm delighted to be here with Joe Sestak. Look, Joe's got guts. He's not only just taken on Arlen Specter, he's taken on the entire political establishment.

And Joe, I know where you're coming from right now. The calls are coming in. They're telling you not to do it. Don't do a primary. You're upsetting the apple cart. And I just think it's good for democracy. Joe knows where he stands on the issues. It's not a question of political calculation. I hope people vote for Joe Sestak.

MATTHEWS: Well, Joe Sestak, Congressman, thank you for joining us. Here's the latest polling. It's done by Pollster.com. It's an average of all the polls in this primary fight. Specter's beating you by about 20 right now. How do you catch him?

REP. JOE SESTAK (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Boy, that's great. You know, that's cut us down about half in the last four months. I've only been in the race two months. Here's how to do it, by being out there and just talking to the people. They have lost such trust, such credibility that they once had in Washington, D.C. We've been down there too long with too many people, much like you ran against somebody who had forgotten that it was about the middle class, the working family. It's being everywhere, Chris. It's being on your show. And it's making sure that I have enough to get out there and just shake hands and be on the media. I want them to know there's a credible alternative who will be in it for them, not their own job.

MATTHEWS: I was picking up the paper this morning, "The Politico," in D.C. before I came up here on the train, and the one thing I noticed, Congressman, is that you're having a money problem. And Arlen Specter never has money problems. Is politics in this country driven by who's got the money?

SESTAK: Well, look, I'm obviously a co-sponsor of a bill for public financing of campaigns, but I don't have a money problem. As you can see, Arlen has already spent $2 million this year. I've only spent $500,000. And his approval rating has dropped all the way down to only 30 percent of the people believe he should be re-elected. So it's not about money.

Chris, this is about the future of Pennsylvania and this nation. I don't say that lightly. I honestly think they want to see people who believe principle should triumph over political calculation to where-

Arlen Specter gave 2,000 votes to President Bush, voted for tax cuts where 50 percent went to the top 1 percent, the millionaires of America. They just want a change. No, they want more than that. They want a warrior that's going to fight with President Obama to make sure they bring about that change.

MATTHEWS: Well, why is President Obama supporting him? Why is Joe Biden supporting him? Why is Eddie Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, supporting him? Why is the Democratic Party of Philadelphia run by Bob Brady supporting him? Why is the entire Democratic Party of Pennsylvania, elected party, backing this guy?

SESTAK: That's the establishment. That's why I was so proud to have Ned Lamont with me today. Look, I don't begrudge President Obama tactically needing-politically, in a calculation, another extra vote perhaps in this very tough year.

But you know what? We're going to be left after this year with a-someone who will be taking us into the future for the next six years, in fact, the next 30 years. And they're going to be unlike the last 30 years where this Republican now turned Democrat was part of the GOP leadership that ran us aground. When I was in the Navy, we relieved commanding officers when they ran us aground.

But think about it this way also. Right now, I understand why they're supporting him. And that's because Arlen Specter is pretty tough to control. The White House has to continue to give them the carrots, as I provide the sticks. That's why you have you seen the polls and everything else shifting.

We actually are going to be out there as a credible choice. And I love running against the establishment. It's the right thing, because you're working for the people.

MATTHEWS: You know, Ned, the problem with your candidate here, as I see it, is, he's not tough enough.

You know, in Philly, to get elected, the way they used to get elected in the old days, the Democratic reformers, the way they would beat the corrupt Republican machine, was call them a bunch of bums, stand in front of city hall with a bullhorn, saying, we're-we're going to get the drones out of city hall, the people that are just hanging around, taking your money. They knew how to go after the bums and they would say, throw them out.

This guy won't call point a bum. He won't call Arlen Specter a bum. He won't go after these guys. He won't go after the fact that they have circled the wagons and grabbed all the ethnic money from-all the money, I should say, all the money. There's no-this guy can't raise any money right now.

Now, you get-let me get back to you, Congressman. Can you get money out of the legal community? Can you get money out of the usual givers to the Democratic Party? Can you get any of that money? It looks to me like they have dried it up on you.

(LAUGHTER)

SESTAK: Look, two things. I have got $5 million.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: We're doing mighty fine. We're just shy of $5 million.

Number two...

MATTHEWS: Yes, but you started with $3 million. You starred with a lot money.

SESTAK: Absolutely. And we have kept-this year, this month, we matched Arlen Specter dollar for dollar, except the president did come in and raised him a little bit of extra more than he got.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Yes, $2.5 million -- $2.5 million at one event.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And you're going to beat this guy?

SESTAK: Without a question.

Remember, Mrs. Clinton came in here, and was outspent by President Obama 4-1, and she won.

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

SESTAK: And, number two, am I tough? Hey, look, you know, I headed the Navy's anti-terrorism unit. There is not a question about toughness.

So, we're going to do quite fine.

MATTHEWS: OK. Maybe I know too much, but here's my problem.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think that you're a relationship politician. You're a loyalist. You like the Clintons. You worked for them in the NSC. You're an admiral of the United States Navy. You served the country. You have everything right on your resume, except I don't think you have got any teeth.

And the question I'm going to ask you, why don't you get Bill Clinton to come in and pay back what he owes you? You supported him all those years. Why don't you say to President Clinton, get in here and campaign for me and even this thing up, him against Obama? It would be a hell of a campaign in this state.

SESTAK: I don't need President Clinton to win.

MATTHEWS: You don't?

SESTAK: Number two, number two...

MATTHEWS: Well, why don't you ask him right now to come in and help you.

SESTAK: Number two-number two...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why don't you say, Bill Clinton, you owe me; come on in and help me?

SESTAK: And, number two, I have-I honestly believe something, loyalty not just down, but also up.

And I believe I should never ask a former president to place himself in an awkward position with somebody...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: ... who has decided for various reasons to support my opponent and is now the president.

But, more than that, we're not worried about taking this fight to the very, very end, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: This is one, without a question, we are going to persevere.

I wouldn't get in this...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... if I didn't know I would prevail in the end.

MATTHEWS: Who is the hawk and who is the dove on Afghanistan, you or Senator Specter?

SESTAK: Well, he...

MATTHEWS: I sense he has gotten to your left on this issue. He is very much questioning whether we should put more troops.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You're coming off as the insurgent here, but you're also more hawkish. Am I wrong or right?

SESTAK: I'm...

MATTHEWS: Help me.

SESTAK: I'm for what makes Americans more secure.

And I made sure, as Arlen Specter puts out a list of about 25 questions he wants answered, look, I was on the ground at the beginning of that war for a short period of time, then the retaliatory strikes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SESTAK: I believe we need a measured increase in troops, as long as this president provides us an exit strategy to measure the success or failure of a new strategy.

MATTHEWS: Right.

SESTAK: And, second, there is only one reason to be in Afghanistan, and that is to extinguish...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... that safe haven from al Qaeda in Pakistan.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is your problem.

SESTAK: No, this is the right thing. And that's why we're going to win, because we're on the issues.

MATTHEWS: So, you're more hawkish than Arlen Specter.

SESTAK: And forthright.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask Ned Lamont, are you comfortable backing a guy who is for sending more troops into Afghanistan, yes or no? Are you comfortable backing the more hawkish position on Afghanistan, sir?

NED LAMONT (D), FORMER CONNECTICUT SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Joe Sestak, 31 years in the U.S. military, if that guy was on the Armed Services Committee in the House in 2004, I guarantee you, we would not have rushed into that war in Iraq. He opposed it during his race in 2006.

And I love the fact that he's going to have a very measured, strategic response when he looks to Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No.

LAMONT: I want a guy with background like that sitting at the table.

MATTHEWS: Joe, Admiral Sestak-but Admiral Sestak was for the war in Iraq. Am I wrong?

SESTAK: No, I opposed the war in Iraq from the day-look, I took my carrier battle group...

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: ... into the Persian Gulf. The three-star admiral said, Joe, what do you think about this? And I said, this is a tragic misadventure.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SESTAK: And that's-so, that's why I wanted a date certain out of Iraq.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me-you're right. And let me-I -- -- I stand corrected on that, Admiral Sestak. You were on the right side of that issue.

Let me go back to Ned Lamont and check you one more time, give you an answer here-opportunity. Do you support the more hawkish position in Afghanistan advocated by your candidate?

LAMONT: Look, I believe you have got to have a partner in Afghanistan. Whether President Obama decides to send more troops in or not will be secondary to whether we have a strong government there that we can work with.

MATTHEWS: You're hedging. You're hedging. You're hedging. Are you a hawk or a dove on Afghanistan, sir, Mr. Lamont?

LAMONT: I think you have got to hedge. You have got to know that you have a partner. If you don't have a legitimate government that...

MATTHEWS: OK.

LAMONT: ... the people of Afghanistan look up to...

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

LAMONT: ... all the troops in the world are not going to make a difference.

(CROSSTALK)

SESTAK: And, Chris, you know these terms are too simple, hawk or dove.

(LAUGHTER)

SESTAK: It's whether you have a very thoughtful approach in order to achieve your objective, eradicating al Qaeda, so we can be safe at home, without having an open commitment, an open-ended commitment...

MATTHEWS: OK. Great.

SESTAK: ... like we didn't do and Arlen Specter voted for in Iraq.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much.

SESTAK: Thanks for having us.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Joe Sestak, former admiral, a great man who defends this country.

Ned Lamont, a great man, thank you, sir.

Up next: Getting real on "Real Time." I was out in L.A. for Bill Maher's show Friday night. You may not have caught it. You will tonight.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Getting "Real." I was out in L.A. last Friday with "30 Rock"'s Alec Baldwin, the great guy himself, and Maryland Governor Marty O'Malley for the season finale of "Real Time" with our friend Bill Maher. On the show, Maher brought up an importance difference perhaps between the wars in Afghanistan and what's happening in Pakistan. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER")

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Well, the difference, fundamentally, is that Iraq has a middle class. It's an actual society, you know. So, you know, you can actually bribe them.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well...

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: That's why I love doing this show.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: You learn.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You know, you have got a good point here, and you're laughing about it, but it's dead serious. I think we have-we have kept the Middle East peace, to the extent we have kept it, back to the first time, when Jewish immigration in Israel way back in the beginning of the century, by dealing with some of these people, dealing with some of these rotten (INAUDIBLE)

Maybe that's the best way to do it. You don't want elections in a lot of these countries. You want to deal with the guys you can deal with.

BALDWIN: That's reality.

MATTHEWS: And I think you can deal with the Taliban.

BALDWIN: Yes. I mean...

MATTHEWS: I think the smart move is...

BALDWIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... to deal.

BALDWIN: You make a deal with the Taliban.

MATTHEWS: To deal with them.

BALDWIN: You make a deal with them.

MATTHEWS: And I think that's-because it is their country, whether we like them or not. So, you've got to deal.

MAHER: The Taliban is no repressive than the Saudi Arabia government.

BALDWIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Well, we deal with them.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: The actual government, who we sit down with, in Saudi Arabia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I think the solution to Afghanistan may well be far from neat. It may involve finding elements of the Taliban that can be brought away-or bought away, even-from dealing with al Qaeda.

Our natural interest, at its heart, is protecting our country from the menace of anti-American terrorism. It is not in trying to govern Afghanistan or in deciding who does govern Afghanistan. Our only clear right is to protect ourselves from those who are, even now, in the act of attacking us.

So, speaking of messy politics, we showed you New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's attack on his Republican rival's weight. Well, his rival, Chris Christie, has decided to counterattack. Here he is during Friday night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Over the last number of months, the governor and his campaign has been whispering around and implying around certain things.

So, let's just let you all in on a little secret. In case you hadn't noticed over the past eight years that I have been in public life, I'm slightly overweight.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Now, I don't know what that has to do with being governor of New Jersey.

And the worst part of it is, I don't know why the governor just won't admit that's exactly what he and his staff has been doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Corzine, you were referenced a lot by Mr.

Christie. Your response?

GOV. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, first of all, I don't care a hoot about Mr. Christie's weight. I do care about what matters to the people of the state of New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Corzine is not putting his mouth where his money is. That ad, which he paid for, goes directly, as you just saw, at Christie's gut.

Finally, the prosecutors say hoax. That balloon, well, we're now learning, couldn't even carry a 37-pound weight or a boy. I thought that was the case watching the balloon come down, at least. The 6-year-old kid seems to have blown the caper, by the way, in that "LARRY KING" interview.

Yesterday, by the way, the sheriff's people say they believed it was all a publicity stunt to land the family a reality show deal.

Wow.

Believe me, this isn't the last story we're going to hear like this. Reality shows appeal to the very people who would like to be on those shows. Getting on them requires you be somewhat, well, odd, at least to begin with. Look at the folks who get on "Maury"-Maury Povich-and "Jerry Springer." They want it so much, they're willing to do just about anything. Perhaps the Heene family was willing to do, well, anything, period, to get on those shows.

Anyway, for tonight's "Big Number," a big-time fall from grace. Back in January of 2008, John Edwards was flying high, a presidential candidate with a beautiful family behind him on the campaign trail. His favorability rating back then stood at 84 percent. We have since learned Edwards had an affair with his campaign's videographer and likely fathered a child with her, all this while his wife was battling cancer.

So, after the skeletons came out, where does John Edwards' favorability stand today? Twenty-one percent. By the way, that's a 27 percent drop from January of 2008, the biggest public decline in popularity in the Gallup poll's history.

Well, John Edwards sinks to a new low. Well, here is my thought. Twenty-one percent is not so bad. If that's one in five are sticking with him through all this, I would call that loyalty. Twenty-one percent still backing John Edwards-tonight's "Big Number."

Up next, we're going to talk to Maria Shriver herself-she is coming here-on how women are changing the debate in this country on all kinds of issues, certainly health care, the unemployment, all kinds of issues out there, including the president.

Maria Shriver coming to HARDBALL, playing HARDBALL a little bit.

Well, we will see.

You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks rallying after a wobbly start today, with investors riding high on a wave of earnings optimism, the Dow Jones industrials up 96 points. The S&P 500 added about 10 points, and the Nasdaq gained 19.5 points.

Caterpillar led today's rally, pushing 6 percent higher ahead of earnings due out tomorrow. And shares in American Express gained more than 2 percent, AmEx due to report earnings on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Apple shares are soaring in after-hours trading, setting the tone for tomorrow's trading, the iPhone- and iPod-maker posting profits and revenues that just blew past expectations, with significant gains over last year's numbers. Apple shares up about 1 percent at the close, and they have gained another 6 percent since then.

Shares in Texas Instruments also on the move after-hours-the chip-maker posted earnings and revenue lower than last year's numbers, but still higher than expected.

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

HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think you can go forward and allow 60 percent of the insurance companies not to provide basic maternity care in a new system we're setting up that hopefully is going to be better than the old one.

Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: Mr. Chairman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Kyl.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: Well, first of all, I don't need maternity care. And, so, requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive.

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: If I could just...

(CROSSTALK)

STABENOW: ... my colleague, I think your mom probably did, but...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That exchange between Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Arizona Senator Jon Kyl underscores why it's important to have a woman's voice in Congress these days. And we do. Seven U.S. senators are women right now.

Maria Shriver is the first lady of California. And all this week on NBC and MSNBC, she's guest editor for the Woman's Nation project. She's joined forces with the Center for American Progress to study women today.

And the result is "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything."

That's strong-sounding language, Maria. But I just want to...

MARIA SHRIVER, FIRST LADY OF CALIFORNIA: I love that clip. I love that clip.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And I love that clip, because, without getting into details

you're not here to sell Obama's health care plan. You're here to sell the role of women in American life.

Let me ask you this. Some people think that Obama has missed the point here, that women really do-well, you know. You ask the average woman what shots have the kids had, she might know where to find out. You ask the average guy what shots the kids have had, their kids, he has no idea.

They-the kids-the mother knows the doctors' names. She knows the kids' health situation, the shots, their histories. Women do take more responsibility for health in American life...

SHRIVER: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... and for their parents.

SHRIVER: ... they're the biggest buyers of American health care.

But I think what-I know you have spoken about that in the past, Chris. In fact, you came to the women's conference and talked about how your wife knew all of this and you didn't know any of it.

But if you talk to young men today, they do know. They do know the name of the pediatrician. They are much more involved, not at any level the same way that women are, but that's changing in American households.

And what men and women told me across this country is that government has not kept up with the changing role of men and women. Business has not kept up. And that men want to be more involved. And women are demanding that they are.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me-I have to now jump on something you wrote here. This is in the talking points I've gotten from the key-these are your issues, now. Quote, "some researchers report that a wife feels more sexually attracted to a husband who pitches in around the house. And one of the biggest predictors of a husband's marital satisfaction is how often he has sex."

I mean, this is the strangest thing we're talking about here. Are you saying that Arnold, A, helps with the dishes, and gets along better with you because he does?

SHRIVER: No, I don't see Arnold's name in there, at all. I think that's your mind. You've gone into some area that I'm surprised you've gone into.

But I think that we talked about the change in this report. It talks about the changing role of marriage. I can tell you that men do say that the number-one predictor for them of a successful marriage is sex. And that women say that they want men who are supportive of them, who helps with child care and elder care, and that made their husband more sexually attractive. You can take that information home tonight.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, I will. Let me ask you about these other issues. You know, I do think that women-I still stick to my political assessment, not the knowledge base you have now. But if you look at the polling, women do focus on health issues. They focus on education issues, on elderly issues. They do take care of their parents better than their husbands do. You argue that's changing.

SHRIVER: Well, it is changing. The facts I think in this poll-you have our partner, "Time Magazine," that has the American woman on its cover. Women still feel primarily responsible for the child care and the elder care in this country. But you will talk to 80 percent of the elder care that's done at home is done by women, and that's incredibly expensive.

Women are using their voices to demand changes in the workplace and from their government. They're not going to accept gender discrimination in this health care. I thought it was really great to see Olympia Snowe, a woman, a Republican woman, be so forceful this past week in this debate. I think women running companies are bringing men and women together, offering flex hours, tele-commuting, virtual employees.

The American family has changed, Chris. Less than 30 percent of kids have a stay at home parent. And the implications of that have to be felt across our government, our faith-based institutions, the way schools are run today, with summers off. That's a huge challenge for working families, when you have two people out of the house and working. Institutions have to adapt.

MATTHEWS: I'm thinking-I'm a big fan of this new show on television. Cathy and I don't watch a lot of television. We watch this-

"The Good Wife," and it's about a woman who has a husband who is in politics, got into trouble, a guy who has done a lot of things wrong. And she's trying to do it all. I have always thought-tell me if I'm wrong, based on your new data. Women, they have to have child care. They have to have good public education for the kids, most parents. They need to have Social Security for their parents and Medicare for their parents, as they get older. They're very focused on these issues.

And therefore, in a lot of ways, they want a more active government role. Is that still a fair assumption?

SHRIVER: That's true. But what this poll also shows, which I think is really exciting, is men are interested in these issues the same way women are. That's a huge change. And I think that that will bring about even more change, when you have men going in, asking for flex hours, when you have men talking about elder care, when you have men talking about all these different issues that have been associated with women's issues.

There is going to be change, because women are demanding it, and so are men. They want to be different fathers than their parents. They understand that their role has changed, and that particularly young men see a sea change.

And I think that women do expect more from their government, and they expect it to be supportive of them, helpful for them, and current and modern. This is smart economic policy. It's smart government policy. And this president probably knows more than almost any about what it means to live in a woman's nation. Raised by a single mother, lives with a primary bread winner until this role. Lives with his mother-in-law, is raising two daughters.

I think it's so interesting that the last three presidents are all raising daughters. All have strong relationships with their mothers, And two of them were married to primary bread winners.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I like to talk about that, too, Maria. It's your topic, but I always agree that Bill Clinton was raised. He had one father who was a stepfather, was a drunk, tried to beat up his mother. He had to stand up to that guy. Barack Obama's father left the family at the age of three. They were both really brought on to public life and success by their mothers more than their fathers.

SHRIVER: And they know what it's like to be married to a working woman. I think Barack Obama wrote about the concept of negotiation way before we even conducted this poll. I think in this poll, you see that families are saying, we're negotiating all of these responsibilities at our kitchen table. We want our institutions to get up to speed.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have nothing to argue about, Maria, my friend, except-

SHRIVER: Oh no.

MATTHEWS: Except that you say I'm old school. And the only reason that doesn't bother me is I think you know another guy that is probably old school.

SHRIVER: Older school.

MATTHEWS: Older. Thank you very much, Maria Shriver, for bringing us this report. I love the power of it, "The Shriver Report." It's got a real power to it.

Thank you, dear. It's great to have you on HARDBALL.

SHRIVER: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, the politics fix. The White House says the number of troops needed in Afghanistan depends on the political situation there. Do we have a government we're defending-that's worth defending? And how long? This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place, or knowledge about what that government is going to be.

RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Obviously, what I think Senator Kerry was pointing to, which is absolutely correct-which is the essential part of a strategy, and a key component or a leg on the stool is an Afghan partner that is ready to take control of the security situation in Afghanistan, and the civilian side of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we're back. That was John Kerry and Rahm Emanuel on the Sunday shows. Does President Obama's decision on troops, increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan, depend on getting their act together over there, the government in Kabul?

Time for the politics fix with "Newsweek's" Howard Fineman, who is an MSNBC political analyst, and the Salon.com's editor and chief, Joan Walsh.

Howard and then Joan, here's the question: I wonder if we've gotten the cart before the horse here. Back in the Iraq days, the surge was based on the idea if we give them security, they will have time to put their politics together. Now in this case, Kerry and Rahm Emanuel, after them yesterday, are saying, no, if they get their act together politically over there, we'll give them security. It doesn't seem to make sense logically, this strategy of telling them to get their politics in order, and then we'll protect them, rather than the other way around.

Your thoughts, Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, "NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE": They have a particular problem in Afghanistan, Chris, which is the election there was widely seen as a fraud. And they're now throwing out a half a million votes, and there is talk that there will be a quick snap election there, because the administration needs to have a marginally credible government that they can deal with, whatever the cart or the horse-wherever their horse or cart is going to be. Right now, that government is widely seen in the world as not to exist.

Whereas in Iraq, it was our government and it was credible to that extent.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Joan. Is there any way in the world that that government can get its act together and meet the standards of legitimacy in time for us to decide to give them more troops? Or is this now simply a permanent reason for not sending more troops?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I don't think it's a permanent reason. I think we will get some kind of clarity in the next few days. I agree with Howard. I don't think it's possible to come up with a strategy that shores up a government, and also comes along with an exit strategy, because exit strategies are very important to Americans.

Right now, Karzai has still not accepted the ruling of the UN-backed investigative group that found fraud. So it's not clear if there will be an election. And there's also talk that, perhaps, he would share power with Abdullah Abdullah, his foe. I'm not sure that that-you know, it would be great if that could come together. That's very difficult.

So would we be looking at a civil war? We don't know what we would be looking at. We don't know what we're fighting if we don't know who's running the government.

MATTHEWS: Howard, here's something that scares me. I'm worried about the fall of the Pakistan government. I'm worried about the nuclear weapons. I'm worried if we pull out of Afghanistan, the cards fall apart down there. The West looks like it's splitting. And we lose Zardari's government, Pakistan falls. The Taliban takes over and hell breaks loose. And we got nuclear weapons in the hands of crazies. I worry about that.

But I also worry about this guy McChrystal, General McChrystal. As I understand his strategy, based on that very beautiful article by the "New York Times Magazine" the other day, yesterday, he wants to embed American troops out there in the countryside, and basically play defense. Put a bunch of our guys and women in the boonies, way out beyond Kabul, all over the place, spread out all over the place, waiting for the Taliban to come and attack, and then jump on them.

My god. What a position to put our kids in to, to be sitting in these villages waiting for these bad guys to come in at night and attack them and kill them, when they're exposed like in the French Foreign Legion. Your thoughts? Is that the strategy?

FINEMAN: I think, talking to some military people, both current and former, that seems to be where we're headed. The president has already said that he's not going to have a precipitous withdrawal regardless. He's taken that off the table.

He's negotiating with himself. He said we're not going to withdraw troops. It's a question of whether we're going to add some, and if so, how many. That indicates to me that he's headed precisely toward that strategy.

In warfare like this, there are three options. Either you go in to win it big time, with an overwhelming number of troops; you know, you fire a few shots and leave; or you hunker down and take fire. That looks like where we're headed, according to the military people I talk to.

MATTHEWS: God, I'm scared. Thank you, Howard. We'll be right back with you and Joan Walsh to talk about something on the home front we can getter understand, the battle between this White House and Fox News. You're watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We're back with Howard and Joan for this little kerfufel (ph) going on. Maybe it's organized. More than a kerfufel. Joan, bottom line-we don't have much time. Think about this bottom line, is this White House wise, shrewd, Machiavellian to engage in an open feud with Fox News?

WALSH: I think they felt they had to do it. They wanted to make clear to the world that this is not a news organization. It's a propaganda organization. They've been supporting-they've been promoting the Tea Parties to the point of sponsorship. It's been really irresponsible. It's not driven by a news agenda.

I think they felt like nobody else was really adequately getting that point across, and they would take a shot. I don't know how it's going to play. It's not over yet. It's still very interesting to me.

MATTHEWS: Howard, in politics, the incumbent begins to attack the challenger when the challenger gets above a certain percentage and begins to threaten his incumbency. Has the White House become to act like Crocker Garmin (ph), taking on the-taking on the challenger in that famous movie?

FINEMAN: Well, they seem to have an instinct for the capillaries here. I thought Barack Obama said cable news was just a bunch of chatter, and nobody should listen to cable news. He said that one day. The next day, his White House is attacking Fox. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I understand-

MATTHEWS: Howard, you are a-you are a print guy. You know how I say it. How I know it and how smart you are. Print guys have file cabinets. You have a memory. That's what separates you from a lot of TV people. You just remembered something. You have a file cabinet. You remembered that he once said, what, three months ago, that cable doesn't matter? Now, he's saying send every one of my Roman Legions against them. Send Anita Dunn, everybody against them.

WALSH: But I remember the Bush administration going after the "New York Times." George W. Bush in his 2004 acceptance speech trashing the Times. I remember John McCain coming after MSNBC last summer.

So this is not a new thing. It's not that the Obama administration just invented this strategy. So it's interesting.

MATTHEWS: It is very-we'll talk about it again I'm sure. Thank you so much, Joan. Thank you, Howard. I put the hat on. Fourth game, maybe they will be three to one after tonight. 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.

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