Guests: Larry Kane, Amy Walter, Sen. Arlen Specter, Rep. Joe Sestak
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Stormy weather.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews, in rainy, cold Philadelphia.
We‘re here on what is the biggest day in politics until the mid-term
elections this November, and what a day it has already been. Voters in
four states are going to the polls on a day that may answer some huge
questions. How much trouble are incumbents facing? What are the
Republicans‘ chances of taking one or both houses of Congress in the
fall? And how much juice does the Obama political team really have?
The big race here in Pennsylvania is the neck-and-neck battle
between the veteran, Senator Arlen Specter, and U.S. Congressman Joe
Sestak. But the smart money is also keeping an eye on that election for
Jack Murtha‘s seat in western Pennsylvania, which may tell us, I
believe, how strong the Republican challenge is to the Democrats this
Plus, “The New York Times” dropped a bombshell today, reporting
that the leading Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut, Richard
Blumenthal, has claimed a number of times to have served in Vietnam,
when, in fact, he never did. Blumenthal now said he “misspoke,” to use
his word. This could give Republicans a Senate seat they never dreamed
of winning. What a day.
We‘ll be here again at 7:00 tonight and then again at midnight for
live editions of HARDBALL for all the results coming in here, and of
course, the hoopla and the analysis. With me now, two pros, NBC‘s
Andrea Mitchell, who reported in Philadelphia in the golden years of
Frank Rizzo, and “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman and NBC‘s Chuck Todd.
Chuck, you‘re missing all the action here. Naturally, we do notice
the absence of President Obama in the closing hours of this campaign.
Why is the White House telling you that after all this successful deal-
keeping with the recently-developed senator from—Democratic senator
from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, they never came through with the
presidential visit the last weekend?
CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Because
at the end of the day, they didn‘t—they had more to lose than there
was to gain. They‘re comfortable with either nominee. They don‘t think
that somehow Sestak is a sure loser. In fact, if you poll these folks
privately here at the White House, about half of them can make the case
that Sestak is the better fall candidate in this environment, that it
makes Pat Toomey‘s effort, the Republican nominee, just—he‘s got to
change his strategy. He‘s been running against Washington and Arlen
Specter. It‘s going to be a different race if it‘s Toomey-Sestak.
That said, I think that had you seen Specter show a little more—
a little stronger standing with the Democratic electorate, maybe there
would have been one more...
TODD: ... visit at the end of the day. But it seemed to be
capital that wasn‘t worth spending.
MATTHEWS: OK, it sounds like Hyman Roth (ph) talking about the
small potatoes, like, if it‘s Arlen or it‘s Sestak, who cares, as long
as we get a seat.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is
the business that we‘ve chosen...
FINEMAN: ... as they say...
FINEMAN: OK, I think that‘s devastating. If they‘re telling—if
they‘re telling Chuck—if Chuck through his reporting is hearing that
the White House, even today on election day, is saying...
MATTHEWS: Doesn‘t care.
FINEMAN: ... We don‘t care...
MATTHEWS: Mezza mezza.
FINEMAN: ... what does that say to the—I was at a polling place
where only 70 people have voted so far out of 1,000 who are registered.
Another 100 might show up. What message do those people get when
they‘re watching their favorite son‘s TV show, HARDBALL, in Philly—
what message are they getting about...
MATTHEWS: I‘m hearing...
FINEMAN: ... Specter—for Specter?
MATTHEWS: I‘m hearing 5 to 10 percent turnout here in the city.
What are you hearing, Andrea?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I was hearing as high as 8
MITCHELL: I mean, the fact is that people...
MATTHEWS: I think half the turnout is out here today right here!
MITCHELL: You know, the fact that the president flew over
Pennsylvania today on his way...
MATTHEWS: To get to Youngstown.
MITCHELL: ... to Youngstown, Ohio, and then we are told by the
intrepid pool reporters on Air Force One, on the way back, he didn‘t fly
over Pennsylvania, he went around it through West Virginia, over West
MATTHEWS: ... aerial rights?
MITCHELL: The fact is that it does send a signal about loyalty.
Arlen Specter, whether you love him or don‘t love him, he walked the
plank. He converted at their behest. Joe Biden recruited him. Ed
Rendell recruited him. And when the push came to shove...
MATTHEWS: ... too strong here?
TODD: I will say this. The White House will say, Wait a minute,
Arlen Specter came to us. This wasn‘t a case of them actively, a la Jim
Jeffords and Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, when they went and got Jim
Jeffords to do this, convinced him to do this. This was not the same.
Now, look, there‘s going to be all these semantic arguments back and
forth, but this is case where some will argue, Hey, wait a minute, Arlen
Specter came to—out of political expediency, came to us, came to the
White House. The White House didn‘t come to him.
FINEMAN: Tell that to Joe Biden, who was begging...
FINEMAN: My only point is there are voters—people haven‘t voted
out there. If the White House is putting out the message that they
don‘t care, that could affect votes...
MATTHEWS: You know, in a way, this story‘s been trumped a bit
today. Even though we‘re here in Philly, the big story‘s in
Connecticut. Richard Blumenthal, Mr. Right, Mr. Perfect Resume—I‘ve
never seen a resume like it—he‘s supposed to walk through the general
election. Turns out that all the rep he gotten over the last couple
months about being a Vietnam combat veteran, a Marine of all things—
turns out he was never in Vietnam, completely bogus story, his claims on
here it is, “New York Times” headline today, “Candidate‘s words
differ from his history.” They‘ve got tape all over the place.
Chuck, the tape‘s all over the place of this guy claiming to have
been in Vietnam. He never was. He lied, a direct, 100 percent lie.
Don‘t they have to drop this candidate and get another one?
TODD: Well, look, they—I think at this point, they want to see
how his response plays. He had the press conference today with
veterans. I was surprised. It was a little more defiant than perhaps
some folks that I talked to—that some had expected. He not only
stood by his service, talked about his service—you know, there are a
lot of people you talk (ph) of that generation who will say, Hey, you
went into the reserves to avoid going to Vietnam. The reserves of then
is not the reserves of today, and he didn‘t seem to address that issue.
But look, what Democrats will say privately is, Hey, he had a
reservoir of support. It‘s now gone. He hasn‘t dug a hole yet...
TODD: ... but it‘s leveled the playing field and allowed either
Rob Simmons or Linda McMahon, the two Republicans—and in this case,
the way Linda McMahon is spending money, it‘s likely to be her. And
Democrats will say, Hey, wait a minute. You may say that, suddenly...
TODD: ... Richard Blumenthal has baggage, but so does she.
MATTHEWS: OK, your thoughts, Andrea, on this?
MITCHELL: Well, first of all...
MATTHEWS: How‘s it look to you?
MITCHELL: ... there‘s a picture out there, which we showed earlier
here on MSNBC, of him at Vietnam Moratorium headquarters in Washington
in 1970, at that moment, Kent State—that‘s the moment when the anti-
war movement, you know, gained a huge amount of fervor. He was there
with the protesters, not with the Marine reservists.
MATTHEWS: Right. I think it‘s a (INAUDIBLE)
MITCHELL: And we all know what it took to get into the Marine
reserves back then.
MATTHEWS: OK. It reminds me of Bruce Caputo (ph), who ran against
who was going to run against Pat Moynihan in 1982. The first thing
that occurred to me was a guy tried this. A little bit of investigative
work was done by a campaign or a legislative staffer for Pat Moynihan,
and the late Tim Russert, captured the guy‘s information...
MITCHELL: Exactly right.
MATTHEWS: ... pointed out he was lying about his record. He was
out of the race.
FINEMAN: Well, Chris, the point is that the—as I look at it,
the Republicans have a chance already to pick up seven or eight seats,
if you look at the chart...
MATTHEWS: Does this make it nine?
FINEMAN: This puts this seat in play.
FINEMAN: It makes it marginally more difficult for the Democrats
to protect what the—they were going to—this was a gimme. It‘s not
a gimme any longer.
MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like Barbara Boxer...
TODD: And it‘s money.
MATTHEWS: ... at the gate now?
FINEMAN: Yes, and I was just out—I was just out in California,
and in California, Barbara Boxer is widely regarded...
MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re looking at it. I‘m sorry...
MATTHEWS: ... looking at the visual here of...
FINEMAN: California deserves to be on there, based on everything I
just heard yesterday.
MATTHEWS: As a toss-up?
FINEMAN: Yes. Well, pretty close to it—you know, just the
anti-incumbent, anti-establishment feeling out there. She‘s a Democrat
in a Democratic state. They‘ve got a $20 billion budget deficit they‘re
looking at there. No more federal funds, 12 percent unemployment in
MATTHEWS: And it‘s the first time she‘s run against a woman.
FINEMAN: Yes. And—and...
MATTHEWS: Even though she‘s pro-life.
TODD: Well, that‘s not a done deal.
FINEMAN: Not a bad—not—you know, not a—you know—no, I
MATTHEWS: Tell me, what? We got...
TODD: Well, no, Carly Fiorina...
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got—who can beat—you mean, Tom Campbell can
beat her, yes.
TODD: Well, he could. He could beat her, and there‘s some that
argue that he‘s a better candidate, that the whole idea of Carly Fiorina
and Meg Whitman, both on the same ballot, both former CEOs, actually
ends up hurting both of them and could hurt the whole ticket. It‘s fact
(ph) why the Meg Whitman folks have worked so hard to get Tom Campbell
because he didn‘t get that nomination.
TODD: They‘re worried about the cutesy factor of the two ex-CEOs.
MATTHEWS: ... some big picture work, all three of you, starting
with Howard—starting with Andrea. Let‘s start with you, Andrea.
Let‘s look at the big picture today, what it can tell us about the Obama
administration. If in Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln holds on and wins
narrowly over the challenger, Bill Halter, if the tea party candidate
wins in Arkansas—rather in Kentucky—that‘s where Trey Grayson
could lose easily to Rand Paul—what does it say, all this together,
including the Blumenthal bombshell—does this tell that the
president‘s in worse shape tonight than he was this morning?
MITCHELL: I don‘t see it as a referendum. Yes, worse shape,
because he needs every vote in the Senate. I don‘t see all of those
races as a referendum at all on Barack Obama. I think Kentucky is the
most illustrative. I would defer to Howard because he‘s from the area
originally. But I got to tell you, I think that‘s where the tea party
is really being tested, and we think it‘s likely to be victorious.
MATTHEWS: Shows their energy.
MITCHELL: It shows the energy and...
MATTHEWS: If we have a low turn-out today in Philadelphia and
around the state, if we see the continued lack of enthusiasm by
Democratic voters, meat-and-potatoes voters, black and white, which I‘m
seeing here—if this continues—we never see tea party rallies on
the left. There‘s only activism on the right. Is this a problem for
FINEMAN: Yes. I think it‘s—I think it‘s anti-incumbent, and
the Democrats are in charge of the White House and have big majorities
in the House and the Senate. It‘s not rocket science. That‘s the basic
thing going on.
And you have this kind of taffy pull going on of energy at the tea
party on the right and growing dissatisfaction among left—left
liberals, with the Moveon crowd and all that, on the left—to the left
of Barack Obama, which is—depresses the Democratic turnout...
FINEMAN: ... and allows the anti-incumbent sentiment to focus
mostly on helping Republicans. That‘s basically...
MATTHEWS: I keep waiting for these...
FINEMAN: ... where we‘re at.
MATTHEWS: ... pro-Democratic rallies to start.
FINEMAN: Well, at the polling place I was at, interestingly, some
young people were turning out. Young people were turning out, but
they‘re all voting for Sestak, not for Specter.
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll see. We‘ll see about that as the night goes
on. Thank you, Andrea Mitchell. We‘re at the—we‘re at ground zero
here in Pennsylvania. Andrea Mitchell, who‘s reported here for years,
in the good days—well, I‘m kidding—Frank Rizzo...
MITCHELL: The good days are still to come.
MATTHEWS: The old days are always the good days! Howard Fineman
from Pennsylvania, also from Pittsburgh, actually, and Chuck Todd—
Squirrel (ph) Hill, right?
FINEMAN: Thank you very much...
MATTHEWS: ... Squirrel Hill, and Chuck Todd from Washington.
Thank you, as always, Chuck. You know everything.
MATTHEWS: No Pennsylvania ties.
MATTHEWS: ... we‘re going to talk to Senator Arlen Specter right
here at this stage and—OK, and—well, you can‘t—you can‘t be
everything to us, you know? And by the way, don‘t sharpen up that
resume too much. That gets people in trouble. Don‘t start claiming
We‘ll be back with this big primary fight with Joe Sestak. Arlen‘s
in it to the end. Arlen Specter coming right here next.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on—well, live from Philadelphia!
How can I say it, Philadelphia—only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, Live in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania‘s Democratic senator, Arlen Specter, is with us. Senator,
I was over at the famous deli where you were today, and everybody says
you by a couple of points. That close.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, If I get out my vote,
Chris, I win. I‘m urging at this point all of labor, which wants me to
keep working to stop illegal Chinese imports, to get to the polls before
8:00 o‘clock. I‘m urging the African-American community, that wants me
to keep the school lunch program for children, to get out, the people in
Erie, who want the jobs for GE, people in northeastern Pennsylvania, who
want that train from Scranton to New York City for a Wall Street west
(ph), farmers who want me to keep up the work on price supports and
bring jobs for my senior position on the Appropriations Committee.
MATTHEWS: You know, everybody out here had these signs for you,
these big guys over here. Look at these guys. You got your big guys
out here. They‘re all saying jobs. Now, I‘m interested—how do you
bring back industrialization to this state, that used to have working
jobs for guys that lived in rowhouses?
SPECTER: I‘ll tell you...
MATTHEWS: Where are you bringing them back? They‘re not here.
SPECTER: I‘ll tell you exactly. You stop China from selling goods
in this country which are subsidized, which violate our trade laws.
They‘re international bandits. They take our jobs. They take our
money. They lend it back to us, so they own part of America. And I
have been doing that in the International Trade Commission, where I‘ve
argued big cases...
SPECTER: ... saved a lot of jobs in the tubular steel industry and
in tires. And the port of Philadelphia, for example, has the potential
for 125,000 new jobs if we get it down to 45 feet instead of 40 feet.
And I‘m in mid-stream on that.
MATTHEWS: But you‘ve been in office 30 years. How come you‘ve not
been able to reindustrialize the state in 30 -- this state has lost
industrial potential year after year after ear for 30 years. I mean,
for more than that, since I grew up here?
MATTHEWS: It just keeps losing jobs. These guys live in rowhouses
here, these black people, the white people, they don‘t have jobs.
MATTHEWS: I had a guy standing here, said, It‘s about jobs. Where
is he, one of these guys out here?
SPECTER: Well, I have brought a lot of jobs. I‘m not a miracle
man, but I have done a lot to keep jobs. You take the work I‘ve done
for raising the funding for the National Institutes of Health. The
University of Pittsburgh has gotten $4 billion in the last decade. The
University of Pennsylvania has gotten close to that. Those are a lot of
good-paying jobs. You take a look at what...
SPECTER: ... has happened with my work on stopping Chinese
imports, the work we‘re doing on the currency manipulation.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re going to get back—this is a big point in
your campaign. Are you going to get back the seniority you had as top
Republican as a top Democrat?
SPECTER: I have...
MATTHEWS: Have you got a hard commitment...
MATTHEWS: ... from the Democrats you‘ll get it back?
SPECTER: I have an absolute commitment from the majority leader
that I will have the seniority as if I‘d been elected as a Democrat in
MATTHEWS: And if Harry Reid gets bopped off in the next election
this November, who keeps the promise?
SPECTER: Well, he speaks for the caucus...
SPECTER: ... and it‘s going to be resolved after the election, and
that‘s—listen, today I have clout. I have a lot of experience and
I‘ve got a lot of seniority, and I‘ve been able to bring a lot of jobs
back and have had a very major influence.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s true.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve done a great job with Appropriations. Earmarking
is great, but this state has gone down...
SPECTER: Hey, one...
MATTHEWS: ... in industrialization for 30 years.
SPECTER: One—one last point.
SPECTER: I cast the key vote on the stimulus.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you did.
SPECTER: Without that vote, we would have sunk into a 1930
depression. That meant 143,000 jobs in this state. That‘s $16 billion.
And I provided the key 60th vote to cut off the debate to have
comprehensive health care reform. Now, that‘s—that‘s a pretty good
MATTHEWS: It sure is. You make a good case. Tonight—please
come back tonight with the results, Senator. Your headquarters are at
the Sheraton, right?
SPECTER: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Senator.
SPECTER: Nice to have you back in town.
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re the first guy I ever voted for.
Anyway, earlier today, Congressman Joe Sestak talked to NBC‘s
Andrea Mitchell about his primary opponent, Senator Arlen Specter.
Thank you. Let‘s watch that.
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I think that
there‘s been a generation down there that somehow believes that holding
onto your job might even be more important than working for policies
that help families. I respect Arlen Specter. He‘s done some good
things, particularly items like NIH funding, and we need to respect
I honestly do disagree that one might switch a job because, as he
told us, his prospects were bleak against Pat Toomey. He has also
switched positions on, like, public option. At the end of the day, he
also advanced the Republican agenda of George Bush. I‘m a Democrat of
core beliefs and core convictions and...
MITCHELL: Congressman, he had voted against George Bush time and
time again. I mean, I think it‘s very clear that there is a strong
record that Arlen Specter voted against Republicans as often as he voted
against Democrats. He was pretty much an independent all along.
SESTAK: The actual fact is that on 23 percent of the time during
the eight years of the administration of George Bush, he voted with
Remember what Majority Leader Reid said one time? Arlen Specter‘s
always there for us when we don‘t need him. On those key- defining
votes like the tax cuts or the tragic war in Iraq. He supported Dick
Cheney and George Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Anyway, longtime Philadelphia newsman Larry Kane—this
guy is the pro up here—is a political analyst for KYW Radio. He‘s
also the host of “The Voice of Reason” on the Comcast Network, which is
a very important network these days.
LARRY KANE, HOST, “VOICE OF REASON”: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Larry Kane, you have worked for all the
local affiliates. You know the job. The turnout here, I get a sense on
this rainy day, this Tuesday, it may not be the big machine vote that
Specter needs to win.
KANE: I will tell you right now that I never put weather as a
factor in elections. It could be a factor today.
The reports I‘m getting, Josh Shapiro, the star, the Democratic
star in Montgomery County....
KANE: ... tells me that the turnout in Montgomery County at this
hour, which is pretty big, is 11 percent. That equates to about a 20
percent turnout in Montgomery County.
I have got to believe the turnout in Philadelphia is much less than
that. And that might not portend good things for Arlen Specter tonight.
Hard to say, though, because you never know with this guy. The guy you
just interviewed has always managed to squeak it out.
MATTHEWS: Right. Yes, he‘s fighting it to the end.
Let me ask you about the job situation. Everybody watching this
show knows that we‘re still in a recession, despite whatever technical
arguments you make. I know people in my family who have been laid off.
It‘s serious business. People in businesses like mortgage business,
it‘s brutal out there.
Isn‘t that going to make it very hard to vote for an incumbent for
anything in America this time of our country‘s history?
KANE: I don‘t think people are thinking jobs that much in this
MATTHEWS: They aren‘t?
KANE: I think they will think jobs in November.
MATTHEWS: Have you talked to this guy out here with the Eagles
costume on? Look at this guy. Look at the sign he‘s got here.
KANE: But look at the turnout. The turnout is so poor. If people
really cared about jobs, they would be turning out. There‘s more
interest in the Flyers game tonight. This is sad -- 600,000 people
watched the Flyers the other night, 600,000 viewers. They will be
watching at 7:00 tonight in the final hour of voting. That‘s not good
for the process.
MATTHEWS: Maybe that‘s to take them out of their pain and make
them feel good.
KANE: I don‘t know. But I will tell you one thing. One of the
big stories in this town—you‘re in the beltway most of the time.
KANE: I‘m out of the beltway. When you look outside-in, you‘re
looking at the fact that Governor Rendell, Bob Brady, the Democratic
chairman of Philadelphia, most of the Democratic establishment in this
town is supporting Arlen Specter right to the end. The White House does
not look very good tonight.
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t the president show up? Isn‘t that question
you have to ask?
KANE: Well, he flew to Ohio today. He didn‘t show up. He didn‘t
do a fresh commercial for Specter. The Sestak people...
MATTHEWS: Larry, I think this has changed. I don‘t think it‘s
top-down politics anymore. Nobody gives a rat‘s butt what the governor
thinks or the senators think. They want to know who they want to vote
for in their interests. You think endorsements matter today?
KANE: Endorsements will matter in November.
MATTHEWS: Has an endorsement ever gotten you to vote for anybody?
Have you ever voted for anybody because somebody told you to?
KANE: Yes, when I was 21.
KANE: But I‘ll tell you one thing. I‘ll tell you one thing.
MATTHEWS: Come on.
KANE: This race in the fall, no matter who wins tonight, is going
to be rugged terrain. And this has been the dirtiest campaign I have
MATTHEWS: I know.
KANE: The White House is going to have to get involved.
MATTHEWS: The general is going to be brutal. Pat Toomey is going
to—a brutal opponent, Club for Growth, right-wing guy. I think he
will move in a bit to the center to win this thing, if he does.
Thank you, Larry Kane.
KANE: Good to see you.
MATTHEWS: We disagree. Top-down doesn‘t work anymore.
Up next: The Democrats‘ hopes to hold on to the Senate were dealt
a serious blow today when “The New York Times” reported a blockbuster.
Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat, the front-runner in that race for the
Senate has lied about serving in Vietnam. Guess what? He didn‘t, and
he said he did. We will get to that straight ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, live from Philadelphia, only on MSNBC.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
We have got a game-changer up in Connecticut, it looks like.
Here‘s the bombshell headline that greeted Connecticut Democratic Senate
candidate Richard Blumenthal this morning when he woke up—quote—
“Candidate‘s words differ from his history.”
And that history is his military service. The “New York Times” Web
site has this video of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal speaking to a
crowd of veterans and supporters in March of 2008. Let‘s watch and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL: This nation
has a way of sending young men and women to war and then forgetting them
when they come home.
And that is unforgivable. And I know that congressmen like Chris
Shays are working very hard to change that situation. We have learned
something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, except he didn‘t serve in Vietnam. He was in the
United States Marine Reserve for a few months stateside during the
Blumenthal defended himself today. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: Now, on a few occasions, I have misspoken about my
service. And I regret that, and I take full responsibility.
But I will not allow...
BLUMENTHAL: I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words
and impugn my record of service to our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, can his candidacy survive? And what does this
mean for the Democrats and their hold on power in the Senate. They
could lose 10 seats now, it looks to me.
MSNBC political analyst Michael Smerconish from Philadelphia is a
radio talk show host based here. And Amy Walters is editor in chief of
Amy, your thoughts on this.
Here‘s a guy said on a number of occasions said he fought in
Vietnam. He never did. He had a chance to correct the record over the
months that his report—the reports were out there that he had served
in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, never corrected the record, let it
I guess, when people came up to him and talked to him, he let it
stand. He said, thank you—when they said, thank you for your
service, he probably said, OK, thank you. I accept your thanks.
How does this guy now say he misspoke?
AMY WALTER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE HOTLINE”: Yes. I mean, I think
this is bad. I don‘t know that this is a killer yet.
And I think really the question is going to be, how many more
videos like this surface? Is this going to be an instance where he
said, look, there are a few times where I misspoke, you caught me one
time out of a million, the bottom line, I still have the record of
service, I still have—and I know other people have mentioned this—
a deep goodwill, reservoir of goodwill with voters, served as the
attorney general for a long time.
He has something like a 65 percent approval rating. The problem
with him right now, of course, is voters‘ reservoir of goodwill is
running pretty dry these days. And, you know, even for a guy who has
been around for a long time, has a squeaky-clean image, this could shoot
that down pretty quickly.
MATTHEWS: Michael Smerconish, your view of this guy‘s half-life?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He‘s done. He‘s
absolutely done, as he should be done.
And if it were just one statement on YouTube in comparison to one
where he got it right, that would be one set of circumstances, Chris.
But it‘s different than that. There are a half-a-dozen-plus stories
that have been published in a variety of publications in Connecticut
where they say that he served in Vietnam, and he never corrected the
And you know the way this works. Every one of these elected
officials, they get a clip file service. They see that which is written
about him. He should have picked up the phone and done something
affirmative to correct the record.
And folks are so sensitive, those who have worn the uniform
overseas. I know that if I mistakenly refer to the Congressional Medal
of Honor on my radio program, every telephone line will illuminate and
people will say, no, it‘s the Medal of Honor. This is a third rail.
You can‘t do it. He‘s done.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at Chris Dodd, the guy who basically
stepped aside to let him have this nomination. Here he is—quote—
“He‘s going to be a great United States senator, in my view. He‘s been
a terrific attorney general. So, this is a bump, but, frankly I think
that he‘s handled it well. And, as I said, I have known him to be
nothing but the most honorable of human beings in public life.”
You know, we have another account from Chris Shays, the former
congressman up there, who said he watched him. I guess he was at that
occasion in 2008 when he was referenced there by the attorney general,
Amy. And he said: “I wanted to warn him. I know he was going too far.
I should have warned him, you don‘t say you fought in Vietnam if you
WALTER: You know, maybe I‘m—I‘m not convinced right now that
this is—is over, and partly because I think this is still very early
on in the process.
And you also have a lot of other candidates in this race who have
some of their own baggage as well that they‘re going to have to account
for. Now, the real question is, how long is this going to stick to him?
Are we going to keep going back and forth and talking about, did he
parse his language here? Should he have corrected this earlier?
There was something else in the “New York Times” story as well that
hasn‘t gotten picked up where he said at one point that he captained—
or it was reported that he captained the Harvard swim team, and he was,
in fact, not even on the Harvard swim team. So, that‘s what I mean. If
we start seeing that there are...
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you square that with his credibility?
WALTER: That‘s exactly right. And that‘s where it‘s really...
MATTHEWS: How do you square that with somebody you can trust on
WALTER: That‘s exactly right. And that‘s going to be the
MATTHEWS: I mean, that‘s sounds balloon head to make up a story.
Why would you even brag about something like being on the swim team?
Where would it come up?
SMERCONISH: He may...
MATTHEWS: Why would you make up something like that? It‘s an odd
SMERCONISH: He may not even...
MATTHEWS: I could see being the quarterback of the football team.
Maybe he figured nobody knew who was on the swim team; he could get away
I have a—here‘s my concern. Well, first of all, personally, I
would never have anything to do with anybody who even helps this guy
become a senator, because he may be a—have a real problem with
character and the truth.
But anybody who helps him become a senator is, to me, beyond the
pale at this point. But here‘s the question. All it takes is for Linda
McMahon, who knows how to put a commercial together, to show this guy
claiming he fought in Vietnam with pictures of guys coming back wounded
and dead and in body bags.
And here‘s this guy claiming he was one of them, and he wasn‘t.
How can they defend that come November in an election situation?
SMERCONISH: Or the Vietnam combat veteran who is the other
Republican in the race. Look, there‘s...
MATTHEWS: Rob—Rob Simmons.
SMERCONISH: There‘s no shame in serving in the Marine Reserves,
but to do so after five deferments, to be in that elite program, which
has been the focus, in Washington...
MATTHEWS: In Washington. They did Toys ‘R‘ Us or something for a
MATTHEWS: That was their service.
SMERCONISH: And then to say, “When I came from Vietnam,” you put
it all together, he‘s done.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, I—Amy, it may be generational, but those of
us who—I was in the Peace Corps. I know the difference between being
in the Peace Corps and being in the Marines. And I know the difference
between being in the Marines, fighting in Vietnam, being out there as a
grunt, a sergeant, as he was, facing the enemy in the jungle every night
of your life, scared to death, watching your guys getting shot in the
face, and the difference between that and doing a Toys ‘R‘ Us good-time
job in Washington with the other swells is night and day.
Anyway, thank you.
MATTHEWS: And you should admit you were...
MATTHEWS: ... in the day, not the night.
Michael—your thought? I‘m being hard here. Your thoughts.
WALTER: No. I think you‘re—I think it‘s exactly right that
there is—in part of it, there is a generational thing. And I think
really, when it comes down to it, when—so, for somebody like me, who
did not—who was not there at this era, I look at this really more to
what you‘re—you suggested earlier, which is a credibility question,
which is, at what point do you trust or not trust these people, at a
time when you—when voters already believe that everybody‘s on the
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK. Thank you.
WALTER: And it doesn‘t matter whether you‘re a politician or not.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not my America, Amy. And I know it‘s not
And, by the way, if a guy thinks he was on the swim team and
thought he was in Vietnam, I think he ought to quit politics.
Anyway, thank you, Michael Smerconish.
Thank you, Amy Walter.
And we will have some Republican Senate candidate—we will have
Rob Simmons on HARDBALL tomorrow night. He will have a thought on this,
having actually been in Vietnam.
Up next: What will tonight‘s races tell us about President Obama,
big question, and the strength of his political machine, such as it is?
You‘re watching HARDBALL, live from Philly, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL and the crackle of victory and
defeat night. How much does the White House have riding on today‘s
elections around the country? And what will these races tell us about
the power of President Obama and his team?
Chris Cillizza is managing editor of “The Washington Post”‘s “Post
Politics.” E. Steven Collins is radio talk show host up here.
Let me start down there in Washington with Chris Cillizza.
MATTHEWS: Nationally—forget Philly for five minutes here.
Let‘s talk about—this is obviously one of the big elections—let‘s
talk about the country.
The president didn‘t show here for Arlen Specter this weekend. The
president could take a loss here with Specter. He could take a loss in
Western Pennsylvania, with the Critz vote for the House. He could face
a weird situation with Blanche Lincoln, in very tenuous shape after
tonight, after a tough primary fight, and see the wild fire of the Tea
Party crowd out in Kentucky, with Rand Paul winning perhaps by double
Does it all add up to a bad night for him?
CILLIZZA: Chris, let me first say, I never forget Philly, as a
point of order. But that said, yes, it has the potential. If the
scenario you just outlined happens, absolutely. I would say, look, the
big, marquee race, the reason, Chris, you‘re up there—you know this
better than me. The big marquee race is Specter. The White House was
intimately involved in getting him to switch parties. The president
endorsed him. They did everything they could, unsuccessfully, to get
Joe Sestak, the congressman from suburban Philadelphia, out of the race.
Barack Obama is on television. He‘s on the radio for Arlen
Specter. It‘s going to be difficult for the White House to distance
themselves. OK, as you point out, Chris, he didn‘t come into the state
today or yesterday. Still, the White House has a lot of skin in this
game. I don‘t think they‘re going to be able to say, well, Arlen
Specter, he was a party switcher, and therefore it doesn‘t mean
anything. They‘ve tried that in other places, New Jersey, Virginia, the
Massachusetts special election, essentially saying, the candidates
weren‘t that good; there were external factors.
My guess is they will seek to do that again. But I just think it‘s
going to be harder with Specter, given the depth of involvement from
this White House.
MATTHEWS: You know, my personal reaction, Steven—you‘re a
Philly guy more than I. You live here. I lived here when I grew up
here. It seems to me that when I first saw President Obama, I was
thrilled by the potential, and I still am by his potential. But when I
began to see him cutting deals, like bringing Specter into the party, it
seemed like old politics. You could see this in Huey Long‘s Louisiana,
this kind of politics, cut a deal, bring a guy across, we‘ll get a vote
from him. We never really liked him, but now we‘ll bring him aboard.
Wasn‘t that the first sign that this guy‘s just a pol like
COLLINS: I don‘t think so. I think Specter looked at the
political landscape and made a decision.
MATTHEWS: I‘m talking about the president of the United States,
who had a higher reputation.
COLLINS: -- to vote for stimulus and be on his side, and then
looked at the numbers. I think the president is finding his way through
this. This is his first at bat. He‘s got to look at this race in
Pennsylvania, the other races you referenced, try to make the right
He hasn‘t been here, but he was here early on. The message, as was
referenced, has been on TV, has been on radio—we‘ve heard it over and
over and over again. People forget, Specter is not a guy—I don‘t
care what age he is. He‘s a bulldog and he is not giving up.
MATTHEWS: Isn‘t there something smelly about party switchers,
generally? I look at John Connolly becoming a Republican, John Lindsey,
a great looking guy from New York, becoming a Democrat. Every time they
switch, they look a little stinky, a little opportunist. They never
really believed in the party they were in. All of a sudden, they‘re
believing, opportunistically, in a new party, to get ahead.
Do you like party switchers, per se?
COLLINS: I—you know what, to be really honest with you, I look
at what he‘s done all those years.
MATTHEWS: You don‘t think like I do. In other words, if he
switched the other way, you wouldn‘t like it?
COLLINS: I think people look at what Specter has done over 30
years. He‘s been about constituent service, Chris. The guy has a
remarkable record. He‘s done things that a lot of Democrats didn‘t
look. But look at the polls, look at the people who are endorsing him.
I think he represents an old line thinking, but it‘s important right now
to have that kind of—
MATTHEWS: It looks to me like this candidate we‘re looking at
right now—go ahead.
CILLIZZA: I was just going to say, I agree with you wholeheartedly
on party switching. Just very quickly, the party you left hates you and
will do everything they can do to beat you. And the party you come to
doesn‘t trust you.
So unless you do it like Phil Graham did in Texas, where he
resigned as a Democrat and ran in a special election as a Republican,
it‘s just hard. You get by the first race, the first renomination, then
I think it may be more about your accomplishments. But right now it‘s
about trust. That Joe Sestak ad is devastating, because it says this
guy used to be a Republican; George Bush loved him; he switched parties,
by his own words, because it would help him get reelected.
Getting over that first hurdle is very tough for party-switchers.
Look at Mike Forbes in 2000, switches from Republican to Democrat, loses
to a librarian named Regina Seltzer (ph), who raised 50 dollars in the
campaign. There‘s lost a level of distrust that exists.
MATTHEWS: You know, Chris Cillizza, I‘m taking a new look at you,
young man. I see a well dressed man, well-turned-out, handsome, by the
grace of God, with a brilliant future ahead of you, because you‘re dead
right. People don‘t like party-switchers. And you are wrong.
COLLINS: We will see tonight. We will see tonight. Don‘t forget,
African-American voters and how they feel tonight.
MATTHEWS: Thank you Chris Cillizza. Thank you, Steven Collins.
Up next, he doesn‘t mind switchers along as they switch his way.
Up next, the big race that could signal whether Democrats will hold on
to the House this November, that special election in Jack Murtha‘s
district. That‘s a big one. And if this goes the wrong way, look at 50
seats going the other way. We‘ll get back to that, plus more on the
Specter-Sestak fight here in Philly, with the mayor of Philadelphia,
Michael Nutter, joining us in this seat. Congressman Bob Brady, the
boss of the city, the chairman of the committee, and Pennsylvania‘s
Democratic state chairman, TJ Rooney—they‘re all coming here.
This is HARDBALL, live from Philly, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back. Now all eyes are on Pennsylvania right now
for the big race for the United States Senate between United States
Senator Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, who is fighting a little engine
that could kind of campaign. He‘s the PT boat against the Navy here.
Pennsylvania‘s hard board special election out in western Pennsylvania,
Jack Murtha‘s district, could foreshadow a big problem for the Democrats
if they lose that seat they‘ve always held.
I‘ve got joining me right now the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael
Nutter, the boss of the city, U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, chairman of
the Democratic City Committee. There‘s no article in that. Just say
Democratic City Committee. That‘s the way you say it. And T.J. Rooney
is chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
We have all the power here. Does it matter, Mr. Mayor? Can you
deliver this city for Arlen Specter? Is it old-time politics where the
top says come on, here‘s the sample ballot, the top of the name is
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our folks are certainly
out there working hard for Senator Specter, and certainly working with
Bob and City Committee, TJ and the state. We‘re going all out to help
ensure Senator Specter‘s re-election.
He‘s been good for Philadelphia. He‘s been good for the region.
He‘s been good for the state. He‘s been good to everyone. Regardless
MATTHEWS: Where‘s the president?
NUTTER: The president is for Senator Specter.
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t he show up? Why did he fly over the state
today? He flew over the state.
NUTTER: He‘s the president of the United States of America.
There‘s 49 other states that might want to see him today.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Brady, how does it look? He should have been here.
How does it look when you get out there in the wards, with the
black and white ward leaders, the regular guys, bread and butter
Democrats? Do they feel they have a stake in this or what?
REP. BOB BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Sure they do. They‘ve got a big
stake in it. They have a stake by voting for our endorsed ticket and
our endorsed candidate. The rain hurt us a little bit. It‘s pretty
tough to drag people out in the rain. But we‘re still confident that we
have the troops out there. We have the organization we have had for
many, many years. We will continue that for many years. And we bring
this ticket in. It will happen.
MATTHEWS: Is Tony Williams, the candidate for governor, spending
enough money today?
BRADY: Thank God for him, because he‘s the one generating in the
city of Philadelphia for a governor candidate.
MATTHEWS: So is there enough street money to make this thing
happen for Specter?
BRADY: Absolutely. It‘s already spent. It‘s already out there.
We‘re going to make it happen.
MATTHEWS: How much a division, 300, 200?
BRADY: I can‘t say that because somebody will get mad. We don‘t
give everybody the same. Some are more valuable than others.
MATTHEWS: The hardworking division committeeman or woman should be
getting about 150 bucks today, right?
BRADY: No, no. They wouldn‘t even show up for 150 dollars.
MATTHEWS: T.J. Rooney, you‘re a Dell guy all the way. He‘s going
to be on tonight at 7:00, the governor. He‘s fighting this race, people
tell me, like he fought for Hillary, until the last dog dies. Why is he
fighting so hard for Arlen?
T.J. ROONEY, PENNSYLVANIA DEM. PARTY CHAIRMAN: He loves Arlen. I
have come to love him. I have come to understand why the governor feels
so strongly and passionately. We all do. We‘re a united front.
MATTHEWS: Is this derivative love for you or personal love?
ROONEY: I‘ve really, really come to respect and honor and like the
MATTHEWS: What happens if Sestak pulls an upset here, and defeats
the whole organization of the city? I get the sense from the White
House, talking to our reporters there, the president will be quite happy
with his people. OK, we have Sestak, we‘ll still win in that general
ROONEY: I maintain my position all along, that Arlen Specter is a
stronger general election candidate for the—to lead the Democratic
party to hold on to the seat. Any Democrats who haven‘t voted yet, if
you want to strengthen the hand of President Barack Obama, you go out
today and vote for Arlen Specter.
MATTHEWS: How is the president doing in the state right now, Mr.
Brady. If the president were on the ballot tonight against any
Republican, Mitt Romney, who would win statewide?
BRADY: He would win. Barack Obama would win.
MATTHEWS: Did you say win statewide? Slam dunk?
NUTTER: Slam dunk.
MATTHEWS: So the president is still popular in Pennsylvania?
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about the race everybody‘s watching, I think
the bellwether state, the 12th congressional district out West. Mr.
Brady, you loved Jack Murtha. We all did. Murtha‘s gone. He‘s trying
to put his staff guy in. Joyce Murtha, his widow, is backer her. Bill
Clinton gave a powerhouse of a speech out there the other day. Can the
Democrats hold that seat?
BRADY: I think they will. I think they‘ll win the special
election. I think they‘ll win the election in the general election in
November, Chris. Yes, I do.
MATTHEWS: Are you worried, T.J., that they might lose the seat?
That—I think if that seat goes, anything is possible.
ROONEY: I think we‘ll win the special election today. What
happens in November, we‘re going to have a good candidate. We‘re going
to have a lot of money. We‘re going to have a good fight. I‘m
confident, as the chairman is and the congressman is, you know, we‘ll
win tonight and ‘12.
MATTHEWS: What do you think it looks like in the House, coming in
this November, based on what you‘re seeing? Can you hold the House for
BRADY: I think so. I think we‘ll probably loose some seats.
They‘re losing some seats, too. You‘ve got people falling off today.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of these guys out in western
Pennsylvania, tough neighborhood, Cambria County, working people?
They‘re trashing Nancy Pelosi. I didn‘t think they even knew her. Why
are they against her? They have big pictures of her.
BRADY: Nancy Pelosi is a tough lady. She puts out the agenda.
She sticks by it. And she‘s a tough, great leader. And she puts her
MATTHEWS: Why are they always going after her personally?
BRADY: Because she‘s successful.
ROONEY: They‘re devoid of ideas and they have to demonize.
BRADY: Party of no.
NUTTER: There‘s an anger out there and folks have to direct it at
MATTHEWS: Great mayor, Michael Nutter, thank you, sir. Thank you,
U.S. Congressman Bob Brady, the chairman of the committee, T.J. Rooney -
I said that, sir—T.J. Rooney, the chairman of the party statewide.
When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Richard
Blumenthal and they‘re not nice. He did something unspeakable. He said
he served in Vietnam. You‘re watching HARDBALL, live from Philadelphia
on primary night, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a story of someone who did
the unspeakable. Whenever I me meet a guy my age who served in Vietnam,
I ask him that direct man to man question, were you in it? Then I look
and often see that somber nod of the head and the sad knowing but sure
answer. There‘s no more powerful question, no more important answer for
those men my age. Those who were in the fighting, who walked through
the jungles and open fields, who rode in the helicopters, drove the
trucks, faced the enemy by day and night in the heat of Indochina—
there are two answers, both heavy with meaning and morality and, yes,
merit, life merit for those who served, who were in it.
I don‘t know how a person could lie about such a thing. I don‘t
know how you, I, anyone could look into the face of another and say they
were in Vietnam, that they were a Marine in Vietnam, with all the merit
attached to that claim, if it were not true. I don‘t know how a person
could do it.
Today, we learned that the attorney general of Connecticut, a man
with power to indict, has made such a claim, that he was in Vietnam when
he was not. He has said he was in the Vietnam War when he never was.
Never was. He says he misspoke.
How many times did he have it written in the paper that he served?
How many times did he let the record stand that he served in Vietnam?
How many times did other men face him, man to man and ask him, were you
in it? And let that other man believe, that other American think that
he deserves such honor when he knew every instant he did not.
If he stays in the race, that‘s his call. Just as it was his call
all this time to say he was a courageous combat veteran who returned
from Vietnam. But for anyone who lifts a finger to put this man in the
United States Senate, for that, I find no way to accept. The United
States Senate cannot take on the morally dead weight of this candidate
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. I‘ll be right
back in one hour at 7:00 Eastern for a live edition of HARDBALL, and
throughout the night, as the returns come in. And at midnight Eastern,
we‘ll wrap it up in another live edition of 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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RESERVED. Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any
trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>