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updated 8/31/2010 12:07:05 PM ET 2010-08-31T16:07:05

Guests: Julia Boorstin, Richard Wolffe, Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Essam Fathy, Mark Potok, Margaret Carlson, Jeanne Cummings, David Corn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Mr. Beck comes to Washington.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Is God a conservative?  It was a benediction, a religious moment.  But let‘s face it, the moment may have been religious and nominally non-partisan, but the movement was anything but.  The crowd that Glenn Beck brought to Washington this weekend is united in its secular intention, determined to bring down a president, and united in its politics—don‘t kid yourself, conservatives from Mall to Mall.

But whether there were 100,000 or 500,000 at the Beck rally, it raises a question.  When was the last time liberals got 100,000 people to the Mall?  The answer‘s a good one.  Inaugural day.  But why can‘t the progressives create events like these folks did this weekend, these folks who pride themselves in their traditionalism?  It‘s the question that dogs Democrats heading to November 2nd, and it‘s got “Game Change” author Mark Halperin saying they could lose up to 60 House seats this November.  The Democrats have a couple of months to do something about it.  Getting to the answer is our top story tonight.

Here‘s another question.  How did President Obama lose control of his own biography?  He‘s been portrayed by his enemies as a foreign-born Muslim socialist terrorist-coddling enemy of American capitalism.  Just how did this story get to be so big?  And why isn‘t the White House doing anything to kill it?

Plus, another anti-Muslim incident, this time a fire at an Islamic center construction site down in Tennessee.  After 9/11, President Bush courageously argued against any backlash against Muslims and called Islam a religion of peace.  Where are the Republicans today out there tamping down this anti-Islamic rhetoric from their own people?

Also, how‘s this for a twist?  The 2010 political season that at one point was to be the war—or rather, the year of the woman, may actually see a drop in the number of women serving in the Congress for the first time in a generation.  Then again, there may be a hike in the number of bigger jobs that women win, like governor.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with the hard arithmetic of crowd numbers.  Size does matter.

Let‘s start with that rally at the National Mall this weekend.  Richard Wolffe‘s an MSNBC political analyst, as is “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.

Your sense—I have to tell you, it was all religious.  It was all about God.  And fine.  But  had a sense it was all politics.  That was like a benediction before a football game, or a war.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s religion as politics.  I actually thought, though, both rallies—that and Sharpton—look, Sharpton‘s a religious figure, too.  But they were both good-natured.  What was really shocking was what Beck said to Chris Wallace on Fox News the next day because...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  ... there his religion turned explicitly political, and frankly, racial, as well.  And those comments were as outrageous as his comments at the rally were bland...

MATTHEWS:  Which—point to which ones you‘re talking about.

WOLFFE:  Well, he said that he—for a start, he said he wanted to amend his comments about accusing the president...

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WOLFFE:  ... being racist, rather than retract them.  And he said he was all about liberation theology...

MATTHEWS:  Well, he said he‘s a big, fat loudmouth, too.  He said—he retracted to the extent of saying he doesn‘t believe the president‘s a racist.

WOLFFE:  He said Obama was for reparations.  Come off it!  This is not a president who has ever, as candidate, as senator, as anything spoken positively about reparations.  He‘s playing racial politics...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s the story.  Here‘s the part about his at least semi-apology for calling the president a racist, I think a bit out of date.  By the way, he should have done it on Saturday, as I say in my commentary tonight, when he had those 100,000 people listening to him.  Here he is at Fox on Sunday with Chris Wallace.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  His viewpoints come from liberation theology.  That‘s what I think, at the gut level, I was sensing.  And I miscast it as racism, and really, what it is, is liberation theology.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Do you—do you—I know you said it, but I mean, do you, and in this context, in this forum, do you regret having called him a racist and saying...

BECK:  Of course...

WALLACE:  ... he had a deep-seated hatred for white people?

BECK:  Of course I do.  I don‘t—I don‘t want to retract the—I want to amend that I think it is much more of a theological question, that he is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim.  Racist was—first of all, it shouldn‘t have been said.  It was poorly said.  It was—I have a big, fat mouth sometimes and I say things.  That‘s just not the way people should behave.  And it was not accurate.  It is liberation theology that has shaped his world view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Richard, you say that‘s not an apology.  Explain.

WOLFFE:  (INAUDIBLE) apology.  By the way...

MATTHEWS:  He did say I‘m a “big, fat loudmouth.”  What do you make of that?

WOLFFE:  Who‘s he debating?  Is he debating Jeremiah Wright or Barack Obama?  They‘re two different people.  If he wants to debate liberation theology with Wright, he‘s got—he‘s got something to talk about.  But liberation theology hasn‘t been anything espoused by this president.  You know, it‘s a transference.  He is projecting onto the president what he himself believes, which is—oppressor-victim—his thesis is that white folks are oppressed by this government.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  OK.  Let‘s talk about...

WOLFFE:  (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about Saturday.  I didn‘t hear this jeremiad, if you will, from him on Saturday.  I heard very calm religious—what was the strategy?  Why did he go from his patently partisan ideological point of view, anti-Obama, as it clearly is, to this sort of soft, “We‘re all in this together” sort of theme on Saturday?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, first of all, I think all of the people who respect Obama, the president, are relieved that Glenn Beck is just saying that he‘s—that Obama is godless and not that he‘s a racist.  I mean, if you listen to what he was saying there, that‘s what—that‘s what he was saying on Fox.  And what Glenn Beck was doing was letting the rally happen, and then amending his words afterwards.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  I mean, if I can use an old-fashioned analogy Richard probably is not familiar wit, in old professional wrestling, you used to have the guy who played dirty who had a razor in his trunks, and when the ref came around, he put them back in.  I mean...

MATTHEWS:  Foreign object.

FINEMAN:  Yes, foreign object.  And Beck was playing very rough before this peaceful rally that Richard covered.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  And that‘s—that‘s the game that‘s being played now.  And as you said in your intro, Barack Obama and his people in the White House seem to me to be curiously passive about it.  They‘re letting other people handle it.  It‘s as though the president either doesn‘t believe there‘s anything he can do about it or that it‘s not his role to speak up for himself or to do things or say things that would disprove what they‘re talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, to use a Spanish (INAUDIBLE) Richard, the old Pennsylvania expression for dirty politics was spend the first half of the campaign kicking him in the cojones, and the second half, while they‘re holding their cojones in pain, talk about the future of Pennsylvania.

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the oldest trick in the political book.  I think he‘s following it.  He brings these people in with rage and hatred for Obama.  Then he gives them a nice Christian, if you will, message, sort of a benediction, if you will, to send them on their way to battle against Obama.

WOLFFE:  Look, it was an impressive turnout.  And his comments at the rally—there was nothing wrong with them at all.  It was a weird mixture, a kind of rambling thing, but...

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of the—let‘s go to the religious side of this.  What—what brand of religion was it?  What was it—was it revivalism?

WOLFFE:  Clearly, it was evangelical.

MATTHEWS:  Was it “Marjoe”?  What was it?

WOLFFE:  Ironically—ironically—just to relate it to Jeremiah Wright, by the way—Jeremiah Wright is a—is a black—runs a black church within a white denomination.  It is a mixture of precisely the kinds of self...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  ... lifting yourself up and coming together which, actually, this guy was talking about.

FINEMAN:  Can I say something here that‘ll probably get me in trouble?  But I‘m going to say it anyway.  Barack Obama probably should have joined a church here, OK?  Now, I‘m not excusing any of the hatred or nasty language or any of the dirty strategy that we‘re talking about.  But some things in politics you have to do at least for the symbolism.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  Now, he quit the Jeremiah Wright church, OK?  But he hasn‘t joined any other.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  And had he done so and if he‘d done so, but especially if he‘d done so...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  ... after he came to town, a lot of this stuff would never have arisen, in my view.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  Now, I‘m not taking a Pollyanna...

MATTHEWS:  I agree (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN:  I‘m not taking a Pollyannaish...

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FINEMAN:  ... -view about these people.  But why not?

MATTHEWS:  OK...

FINEMAN:  I don‘t get it!

MATTHEWS:  ... the subtext...

FINEMAN:  I don‘t get it.

MATTHEWS:  The subtext of Saturday was, We‘re the God people.  They‘re not.

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That was the subtext.  How do they get away with that?  Is it because of the opaque personality of the president?  He‘s a detached figure, a cool figure, if you will.  He doesn‘t talk about his personal life.  He doesn‘t do what Beck does on television and radio every day.  Beck talks personally—You know, Richard, I know what the problems you‘re going through, Richard.  I know what you‘re feeling.

WOLFFE:  Yes, I...

MATTHEWS:  Personally, I know what you‘re going through at home.  I know what you‘re...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  The president never is personal.  The president is very objective, and you might say serious.  But he doesn‘t do that intimate style of connection that Beck does for a living.

WOLFFE:  He doesn‘t.  But Bill Clinton, who is a master of this stuff, didn‘t carry the evangelical Christian vote, either.  So really, is this the kind of crowd that at this time is ever going to be out there...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who are they?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who are they?

FINEMAN:  ... interesting from a political point of view...

MATTHEWS:  Decode...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Decode Saturday.  I‘ve been asking you guys to decode. 

What was the message of Saturday?  We are God.  They are the bad guys.

WOLFFE:  Yes.  And you are downtrodden, downtrodden economically, downtrodden by the government, downtrodden by these weird people of color who are running things now.  That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear that, or do you know that?

WOLFFE:  That‘s—that‘s what they‘re talking about all the time!

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Beck on Saturday on D.C., and then let‘s listen to the president down in New Orleans talking at Xavier University, a historically black college.  Let‘s look at that now, the comparison, to get the fight that‘s going on here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK:  This day is a day that we can start the heart of America again!  And it has nothing to do with politics!  It has everything to do with God, everything, turning our face back to the values and the principles that made us great!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BECK:  We have a choice today!  We have a choice.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  When I took office, I directed my cabinet to redouble our efforts to put an end to the turf wars between agencies, to cut the red tape and cut the bureaucracy.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  I wanted to make sure the federal government was a partner, not an obstacle to recovery here on the Gulf Coast.  Even as we continue our recovery efforts, we‘re also focusing on preparing for future threats so that there‘s never another disaster like Katrina.  The largest civil works project in American history is under way to build a fortified levee system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Different sides of the moon, one guy preaching revivalism in the broadest language possible, the most emotional and sentimental, and then a very technocratic chief executive talking about the ways in which government can help people deal with tragedy.

FINEMAN:  Well, it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Like Katrina.

FINEMAN:  Yes, utterly different.  And I wrote a column on Newsweek.com about this.  You really need to bracket not—not Beck and Sharpton, you need to bracket Beck and Obama the next day because...

MATTHEWS:  Where do you think we got this?  From your column.

FINEMAN:  OK.  Well, I thought I‘d mention it, OK?

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FINEMAN:  OK.  So the difference is that Beck is not only emotional, he‘s saying that government isn‘t the way, that government is not the answer, government is a threat.  That was a thread that‘s run through all of the language...

MATTHEWS:  So (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN:  ... of conservatives this year.  It‘s ungodly, it‘s oppressing you, and so forth, as Richard said.  Obama‘s down there making the case for the positive role of government, however technocratically...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

FINEMAN:  And that‘s his problem.  He‘s speaking for government, but he doesn‘t put the emotional language into it that others are able to do.

MATTHEWS:  Richard, frightening idea, but you know what you‘re talking about, so I‘m asking an expert.  And I want to ask you because you know the same thing.  Pat Moynihan, the great senator from New York, an intellectual, used to talk about the “iron law of emulation”—you end up emulating your enemies.  We‘re fighting on the world front fundamentalist people who are Islamist, a group—a subset of fundamental Islamic people who are Islamists, who want sharia, who are willing to support, at least generally, violence to achieve their ends.

Back here, there‘s a fundamentalist shift going on.  People are reverting to—not to political differences with the president but basic fundamentalism, basic truths, catechetical (ph) beliefs.  Right?

WOLFFE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Is that what‘s going on at this rally?  Is that what this revival‘s really about, an emulation of the enemy?  They can be fundamentalists—and of course, terrorists.  We‘re not—we don‘t want to be terrorists.  But we have to resort to our fundamental beliefs, as well, to counter those fundamental beliefs.  Is that what the rally was about?

WOLFFE:  You know, I...

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t agree or you agree?

WOLFFE:  No, I don‘t really agree.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFFE:  And here‘s why...

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFFE:  I think we‘re in a stage time with the politics of the war on terror.  You know, we went through all the Bush years with an evangelical born-again Christian president, with Dick Cheney behind him pushing for more war.  And yet the politics around specifically Muslim Americans were somehow softer and toned down, compared to what we see now.  So how can you have an evangelical ideological administration that has a better approach to Muslim American politics than we have now?  It seems the further away we get from 9/11...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WOLFFE:  ... the more weird the attitudes are, specifically about the mosque story.  I don‘t know—I think Beck is an anomaly.  I think he‘s speaking at an economic time.  What‘s curious is why the White House chooses to fight against Rush Limbaugh, saying he‘s the de facto leader of the party, they don‘t they do the same with Glenn Beck.

MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s...

WOLFFE:  Why don‘t they elevate him (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a lot of fervor there on Saturday, and I think it was a fundamentalist reach back to something basic that helps people deal with something frightening on the other side.  It may be change.  It may be Islamism.  Anyway, thank you, Richard Wolffe.  Thank you, Howard, my friend.

Up next: President Obama says he‘s not worried that more and more Americans say that he‘s a Muslim.  But should he be?  Does this president need to do more to combat the campaign of misinformation against him instead of just shucking it off?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  got have primary results out of West Virginia and Louisiana tonight.  In West Virginia, it will be popular governor Joe Manchin against Republican businessman John Raese for the U.S. Senate, the seat held by Robert Byrd.  Manchin enjoys high approval ratings, but Raese has deep pockets and could contribute large amounts to his campaign.

In Louisiana, Republican senator David Vitter will face U.S.  congressman Charlie Melancon.  Vitter cruised to victory in a three-way primary despite a scandal-plagued term.  Boy, amazing he‘s still in there.  Look for the Louisiana race to be one of the most negative campaigns of this cycle.  We‘ll be right back.  I can‘t believe Vitter has a chance to be reelected, even in Louisiana.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Is President Obama losing control of his own biography?  On Sunday, NBC‘s Brian Williams asked the president of the United States why so many Americans think he‘s a Muslim.  Amazing questions we‘re asking these days!  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The facts are the facts, right?  And so we went through some of this during the campaign.  You know, there is a mechanism, a network of misinformation that, in a new media era, can get churned out there constantly.  And so I will always put my money on the American people, and I‘m not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there.  If I spend all my time chasing after that, then I wouldn‘t get much done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  With me mow is “The Washington Post‘s” columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson and “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief David Corn, who‘s also a columnist for Politicsdaily.com.

Gene, it astounds me.  It grows and grows and grows.  Every time we poll, more people believe he‘s a Muslim, fewer people think he‘s a Christian, more people believe he was born in some other country, like Kenya.  It just keeps growing.  Can he knock it down with this kind of disdainful comment, just knock it by saying these people are crazy, basically?

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you know, it hasn‘t worked so far.  He gets criticized during the campaign for going to a specific Christian church, and now, all of a sudden, people are saying that he‘s a Muslim.  And this number continues to be high and arguably grows.  I mean, Howard Fineman was in the earlier segment, but I tend to agree with him.  I think—I expected that when President Obama came to town, he and the family, as he said, would look around, find a church to go to and join a church and go there regularly.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t they do that?  I guess not.

ROBINSON:  No, they have...

MATTHEWS:  Not that there...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a performance aspect to American religious life, let‘s face it.

ROBINSON:  Well, there is, and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... social event.

ROBINSON:  And that‘s what I expected them to do.  And I think had they done that, this issue wouldn‘t be...

MATTHEWS:  Gene, Gene, Gene...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Before we leave you, I—do we—so we‘re not getting the usual Monday morning picture of the president coming out of a church, usually a Protestant church, with a Bible in his hand or a missal or something in his hand, not...

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  But you know, that may have made a difference, but I‘m not sure it would have.  You know, 20 percent of the American public are, you know, people who don‘t care about the facts on this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do only a third believe he is what he says he is?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Well, they‘re being ginned up.  You know, he referred to this. 

In his mild-mannered way, Clark Kent style, he referred to this... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When is he going to phone booth?  When he‘s going to put on that Superman costume? 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Every Democrat on Capitol Hill is waiting for the phone booth. 

MATTHEWS:  Go to the phone booth.

CORN:  But I think as long as he sort of sits back and says, well, the facts are clear, he is not...

MATTHEWS:  Look at the numbers.  Let‘s just look at the numbers, because—I don‘t know—I have never confronted this, where something about me is totally wrong that I have had to just live with the fact people are wrong about something. 

Here it is.  Here‘s the Pew poll, a reputable poll -- 34 percent think the president is what he says he is, a Christian.  That‘s down from 48 percent in March of last year -- 18 percent says he‘s Muslim -- 43 percent say they don‘t—that don‘t know is very suspicious.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When you say you—when a guy says he‘s Christian, you say you don‘t know if he‘s telling the truth or not, that‘s a damning statement. 

Among Republicans, just 27 percent say he‘s a Christian, a 20-point drop.  So, it‘s ideologically driven, David.

CORN:  It is.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They‘re saying it.  It‘s like, so‘s your old man.  It‘s like, I don‘t like you, so you‘re some religion you say you‘re not.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  But he‘s kind of ignoring the bigger narrative, which is there‘s an oppositional element out there that is clobbering him each day, trying to undermine him because of policy reasons. 

And that‘s going to affect what he can do on Capitol Hill, which—it‘s going to affect what happens with the Democrats in this coming election.  And he‘s kind of saying, well, I can‘t be bothered with this. 

I think that‘s a mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  And here let‘s go back to Mr. Beck from the weekend, because here he trying to impugn the man‘s—nature of his Christianity now.  They‘re narrowing it down.  Here he is, Glenn Beck on FOX Sunday sort of ridiculing or questioning the guy‘s generalized notion of a Christian belief.  Here he is, amazing stuff we‘re getting into here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  Jesus came for personal salvation.  That‘s what I happen to believe.  What does the president believe?  Four different speeches since he has been president, he has told and mainly students that your salvation is directly tied to the collective salvation. 

That—that‘s not something that most Christians recognize.  People aren‘t recognizing his version of Christianity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  It really is getting personal.  We‘re getting a religious test thrown at—we‘re not supposed to have religious tests.  There‘s Beck applying one.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  First of all, we would flunk Glenn Beck on his theology exam, number one.  He‘s not much of a theologian.

Second, what is ironic about this whole nonissue is that at least in my experience, to the extent that I know the president, he seems to be a man of great faith, of real and genuine faith.  He talks about his faith and the faith of his family and how it sustains him and how it sustains him in difficult moments. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  And so yet that doesn‘t come across...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It doesn‘t come across.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the role of a politician is to lead. 

CORN:  It‘s not the president‘s job.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, it is the president‘s job.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Not to talk about salvation. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  It‘s not his job to talk about salvation. 

And you know what?  Today, I got a couple press releases from fundamentalist Christian groups on the right attacking Glenn Beck because they believe Mormons are not true Christians. 

So, once we get into this game, no one—no one should cast ones.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me reeducate you, as if you guys need it, or anybody watching doesn‘t know this rule.  You‘re responsible for your reputation. 

And if people are painting a picture, whether it‘s swift-boating or whatever nonsense they‘re putting out about you, Michael Dukakis taught us this back, what, 20, 30 years ago.  They can say all these terrible things about you.  If you let them stick, that‘s your problem. 

It may not be morally your problem, but it‘s politically your problem.  We‘re not saying the president should be talking about his religion publicly to anybody.  We‘re saying it‘s hurting him.  Look at this.  OK.  Look at this.  Now, you can laugh at this stuff, but every time you go to buy a carton of milk, every time you go to buy some Diet Coke at the store, at the Safeway or any of your supermarkets, that‘s there looking at you. 

That is selling, and people are picking it up, taking it home to their husbands or wives, and saying, look at this.  There must be—is there something to this?  Is there smoke, there‘s fire?  Or what‘s..

CORN:  If Obama was inspiring the public on other grounds, if they looked at him and said this guy is working 24/7 to turn this economy around, and they had faith in him on that front, I don‘t think this would be happening. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this.  This problem he has sits there.  The this is a commercial magazine.  I don‘t think it‘s right-wing, as far as I understand.  It‘s there to make money.  The attitude now that he‘s a Muslim has gone commercial.  You can make money off this nonsense, right? 

ROBINSON:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  I agree with you.  I think this is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Every Safeway, every CVS has got this. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  This is a specific issue that people—a lot of people believe something that is not true.  And this belief has been allowed to take hold. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, what does Axelrod—he‘s watching right now—what does Gibbs, who is watching right now, what‘s Rahm Emanuel, what are they going to do about this?  Let if fly?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Well, the message they should take away is that letting it fly and responding if at all in this sort of diffident we all understand that this isn‘t true kind of way, it is not working, and that they need to do something else.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  But that‘s also the—the diffident style is also how he‘s applying himself to the issue of the economy.  Today, he came out and said, it‘s not good.  I have asked my team to come up with some ideas.  I will let you know when we have something.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who was pushing that nonsense the other day about the seed of Islam comes through the father and all this old...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... nonsense?  So, he has no control over it, maybe.  Maybe what the bottom line is, he can say I‘m a Christian until he‘s blue in the face, and in the end they‘re going to say, that‘s what you say. 

CORN:  If he was delivering on the economy, people wouldn‘t care about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  And if we had some pictures.  Give us pictures. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Pictures always help. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, you can‘t change the subject.  As much as I love you, David Corn, you can‘t change the subject to economics.  This is a cultural question he‘s getting nailed on.  And it‘s never going to stop. 

CORN:  I agree with that.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, a year from now, it‘s going to be worse, the ways these guys are going.  And they‘re pushing it.  And the Republicans are pushing it.  It‘s a partisan thing now.

CORN:  Well, of course.

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  David Corn, Eugene Robinson.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Up next—which one of you has the Pulitzer Prize?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, so how many people showed up at that rally this weekend at the Lincoln Memorial?  The numbers vary wildly, depending on who you ask.  And a familiar name gives the wildest answer of all. 

That‘s ahead.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First up, tell me what you really think.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn told a town hall this weekend what he really thinks of former House Speaker and 2012 hopeful Newt Gingrich. 

Here it is—quote—“Gingrich is a super-smart man, but he doesn‘t know anything about commitment to marriage.  He‘s the last person I would vote for, for president of the United States.”  That‘s Tom Coburn.

Gingrich has been married, by the way, three times, carrying on one affair while leading the charge as speaker to impeach Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky matter.  Inconsistent?  Well, we report, you decide.

And, finally, while no one disputes that Glenn Beck got a pretty good turnout at his rally this weekend, how big was big?  CBS News hired a company to measure crowd size through aerial photos.  Their estimate, scientifically, 87,000.  Sarah Palin weighed in.  According to her, at least 100,000 showed.  Not a bad guess.

NBC News talked to a park service official.  His unofficial estimate, 300,000.  Beck himself cited estimates as high as 500,000. 

Even he was outdone by the hyperbolic Michele Bachmann, she being the one of course who suggested once that Congress is huge with anti-American types.  She guessed the crowd at Saturday‘s Beck-Palin rally at at least one million. 

I can remember when inflation was a Democratic problem. 

Anyway, up next:  In the days after 9/11, George W. Bush spoke of Islam as a religion of peace.  So, with the debate raging over whether to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York, why haven‘t we heard that sort of thing these days from mainstream Republicans? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks retreating today, giving back almost all of Friday‘s big gains.  The Dow Jones industrials sliding nearly 141 points, the S&P 500 giving up 15, and the Nasdaq tumbling to 33 points.

Investors unable to generate much enthusiasm about a mild uptick in consumer spending.  Americans spent at their fastest pace in four months in July.  But right now investors are most playing wait and see ahead of Friday‘s all-important jobs report.

Financials were especially weak across the board, with Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America all seeing declines of between 2 and 3 percent.  But Hewlett-Packard shares are up, after announcing plans to buy back $3 billion in stock.  Don‘t forget, H.P. is still battling it out with Dell over the acquisition of data storage maker 3Par.

In other M&A news, pharmaceutical company Genzyme shares surging more than 3 percent after rejecting an $18.5 billion takeover bid from rival Sanofi-Aventis.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL. 

Another anti-Islam—anti-Muslim incident may have occurred over the weekend.  And federal officials are investigating a suspicious fire at a construction site for a Muslim center down in Tennessee.  And Islamic leaders nationwide are calling for an end to heated anti-Islamic rhetoric coming from the right. 

After 9/11, President Bush was quick to condemn any backlash against Muslims.  But where are the Republicans defending Islam today? 

Mark Potok is the director of Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.  And Essam Fathy is chairman of the planning committee for the mosque that is being built in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. 

I want to ask Mr. Fathy that question. 

What happened down there?  What do you think happened to your mosque construction site?

ESSAM FATHY, CHAIRMAN, ISLAMIC CENTER PLANNING COMMITTEE:  Yes. 

Well, we were called by the sheriff department that there is a fire on the site.  It was early, very early in the morning.  We went there about 5:00 in the morning.  And the fire was already put out.  And it was a little—still a little dark.  But when we shined our vehicles toward the equipment on the site, we could see the fire.  I mean, we can see the burning, one of the—they call them like an earth mover or something like that, one of the big equipment there that was set on fire. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are most of your congregation from?  Are they from South Asia, the Middle East?  Give me a sense of the community ethnically and historically. 

(CROSSTALK)

FATHY:  Well, we have people from the Middle East.  We have Americans from here, from everywhere in the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FATHY:  We have African-Americans.  We have from the Far and Near East.  We have—actually, Muslims are from everywhere.  Muslims are from all walks of life.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know that, sure. 

FATHY:  Yes.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I just wondered if it was a particular background. 

Let me—did you get any warning that there was trouble coming to indicate that this might have been foul play?  You‘re not sure yet what caused the fire, are you? 

FATHY:  No, we don‘t know.  But the detective that came, he said that this is definitely an arson. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, OK.  The detective told you that?

FATHY:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re breaking news here for us. 

So, can you trace it to anybody who has given you a warning or a threat so far, sir? 

FATHY:  No, we did not have any direct threat.  But there was a lot of people opposing what we are doing in the community there.  And I say a lot because they are very vocal.

MATTHEWS:  Characterize them, sir.  What kind of people were they? 

They were political people, partisan people? 

FATHY:  Both. 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of crowd?

FATHY:  Both.  We had some people that actually—political people.  They were running for offices.  And we have people that are from the—from there, just people in Murfreesboro.  And actually some of them were from outside of Murfreesboro.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

What‘s really changed—I want Mark Potok to respond to this—it used to be the haters were haters, and that‘s who they were.  But now there‘s a partisan piece to this. 

Watch now President Bush after 9/11, just six days after the tragedy, calling on the country not to be anti-Islamic.  And then catch Newt Gingrich‘s act a couple weeks ago.  There‘s a real sea change here in the way Republican leaders are talking and how they seem now to be exploiting the situation, to the detriment of what we call America.  Here he is and both of them speaking.  Let‘s watch both the president and then Gingrich. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 17, 2001)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That‘s not what Islam is all about. 

Islam is peace.  And Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads.  And they need to be treated with respect. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL, AUGUST 16, 2010)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Nazis don‘t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl  Harbor. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right. 

GINGRICH:  There‘s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have it, Mark Potok.  He is saying that Islam attacked us 9/11.  He‘s comparing them to a Nazi government, to a Japanese empire.  He‘s making a very identical remark.  He‘s saying it‘s the same thing—a lie, of course.  Islam did not attack us on 9/11. 

Al Qaeda did.  But your thoughts, what—on this partisanization of this tricky issue. 

FATHY:  Yes.  I mean, Muslim...

(CROSSTALK)

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER:  Well, I think that‘s exactly what‘s going on.  I really do. 

I think that it has been a remarkable, as you said, sea change from the Bush administration to what Republicans are saying today.  There‘s more.  There‘s a group out there called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee, which describes the Islamic center, the proposed the center in New York, as being a celebration of the murder of 3,000 Americans.

I mean, I think what is going on is Republicans are at sea, don‘t know how they‘re going to pull their party together and apparently are willing to throw all, you know, caution to the winds, all responsibility to the winds and make these kinds of incredible statements—comparing Muslims to Nazis and so on.  You know, it hasn‘t slow slowed down a bit.

I remember very distinctly, after people started throwing bricks through the windows of Democratic Party headquarters a few months, John Boehner, the majority leader, finally came out and said something about the tone of the debate.  But we‘ve had heard from any leading Republican about all this and one can only think that this is posturing as we‘re heading to the midterms.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  Doctor Fathy, what‘s the reaction of your congregation to the sea change in partisanship here where the Republican president, he was our president but he was a Republican, and he was speaking about against this kind of tribalism, if you will, and now you have people like Gingrich—he‘s a smart guy, but he‘s also politically an opportunist, he thinks there‘s money in this politically, and he‘s out trashing Islam?

ESSAM FATHY, ISLAMIC CENTER OF MURFREESBORO, TN:  Yes.  I mean, the

congregation is actually appalled.  I mean, they are actually in shock that

I mean, some distinguished, I mean, very significant politicians say what we hear.  I mean, Islam is only a political party.  It is not a religion at all.  And he‘s talking about 1.5 billion people in this world that are Muslims, and being in—a very strong coherence with Christians and with Jews all over.

      

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

FATHY:  And all of a sudden, you start to hear this, and it sounds like it‘s a new movement that is happening in the United States recently because it‘s probably everywhere.  I mean, not just in New York—

MATTHEWS:  All right.  So—

FATHY:  -- it‘s in everywhere that we can see.  And I do remember, after 9/11, although, I mean, Muslims were hurt, I mean, so badly, because when they say Muslims did this and, of course, it was al Qaeda that they are saying did.  It was hurting, I mean, Muslims more than anyone else.  But we did not see any opposition or we did not see—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I know.

FATHY:  -- any difficulties after 9/11.  We only saw this when we are making an expansion for our Islamic center, just building outside that will accommodate our people.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not the first time, sir.  It‘s not the first time, sir, in this country and anywhere else that smart people don‘t know how to exploit stupid people.

Here‘s Rick Lazio trying to save his campaign for governor of New York.  Here he is going after Islam, going after this center for pure electoral reasons.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK LAZIO ®, NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  New Yorkers have been through enough.  Now, a terrorist-sympathizing imam wants to build a $100 million mosque near Ground Zero.  Where is this money coming from?  Who‘s really behind it?

Incredibly, Andrew Cuomo defends it even though this imam said America was an accessory to 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The last refuge of a scoundrel.

Anyway, thank you, Mark Potok.

Thank you, Dr. Essam Fathy.  I hope I can apologize for people in our country.  But you‘re also American and you know what we‘re going into now, a very bad situation made worse by politicians.

FATHY:  I do appreciate you having me here to say a few words about what is going on.  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ll have you back.

FATHY:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s pray that this doesn‘t get any worse.

FATHY:  I hope so.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: Democrats are bracing for big losses in this year‘s midterms.  But so are women.  Why could this be a bad year for women?  Maybe the worst year in decades, even though some are running for big offices.  We‘ll see what happens when we come back.

This is HARDBALL on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Baseball superstar Roger Clemens was in D.C. today to face charges of allegedly lying to Congress about whether he used steroids.  Clemens has pleaded not guilty to three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury, and one count of obstruction of justice.  He spoke (ph) to Congress in this case.

If convicted on all charges, the seven time Cy Young Award winner could face 30 years in prison.  Seven times the best pitcher in the league.

The charges stem from testimonies Clemens made before a House committee two years ago.

HARDBALL back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, we‘re talking gender politics.  We‘re back.

High profile victories this summer by Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Sharron Angle winning that nomination in Nevada for the Senate, Meg Whitman spending zillions out there running for the governorship of California.  This could be the year of the women, maybe.

But will women actually gain ground in Congress this November?

On Sunday, “The Los Angeles Times” had a sobering outlook peace.  Quote, “After the November election, Congress could end up with as many as 10 fewer female members.  Prognosticators now say, the first backslide in the uninterrupted march of women coming to Washington since 1978.”

Joining us now is “Bloomberg‘s” Margaret Carlson and “Politico‘s” Jeanne Cummings.

Now, I know we have to decipher between right and left, the big executive positions and the somewhat lowlier U.S. Congress positions.  But look at this though.  In the Congress, there are a total of 90 women senator and House members, 69 Democrats, 21 Republicans.

Margaret, it looks like liberals are in trouble this year, progressives, if you will.  That includes a lot of women.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG:  Well, there are more Democratic women than Republicans, liberals.  So, you‘re going to have—this is like a final piece of equality for women, where they can lose equally with men—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CARLSON:  -- when incumbents are in trouble.

So, women finally have achieved some kind of parity and boom, it‘s time to boot them out.

But there‘s a certain kind of women that‘s going to do OK.  I mean, you have the mama grizzlies.  But it‘s the grizzly part, not the mama that‘s working.  You have to be a bear—

MATTHEWS:  Give me names.  Give me names.

CARLSON:  You have to be a bear who‘s going to knock down the tent.

MATTHEWS:  Who the heavyweights—

CARLSON:  Linda McMahon, can you imagine more of a bear?  I mean, it‘s soft-core wrestling—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  World heavy wrestling and Meg Whitman in California.

CARLSON:  Yes.  And it‘s a corporate titan bear, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, as you say.  So, that is the kind of woman.  It is not a kind of—it‘s not a compassionate woman year.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  It‘s tough for women.

Let me go that.  Jeanne Cummings, is this the upgrade to the tougher executive positions?  I‘ve always said it‘s a tough line.  But you got to get in the on deck circle to really have lots of shots to the presidency.  If women start winning in these big governorships across the country, like California, knocking out of Jerry Brown, it would be a big killer.  Things like that—really, people tell me Meg wants to be—Meg Whitman wants to be president.  Is this what‘s going on here on the Republican side?

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO:  Well, absolutely.  I mean, women like all the different types of people before them are earning their way up the ladder, one rung at a time.  And winning some of those big governor races is important.  We certainly saw how Hillary Clinton was able to use her Senate position, and her prior role as first lady—but largely her Senate position gave her the credentials—

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

CUMMINGS:  -- to go out there and run on the campaign trail.

And so, I think this is clearly that women now have gotten to the point where they are accepted by voters as competent executives, tough enough to run, smart enough to run governments—and those are great achievements for women.

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS:  I would point out that—just one quick thought.

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

CUMMINGS:  That if the losses are as bad as they—as some believe they could be in the House, there could be one giant blow to women.  And that is: it could take down the speaker.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi—certainly, she‘s not going to lose her House seat, but she could lose the speakership itself.  And that has been, for many women, particularly Democratic women, a real shining star for the achievements and the rise of women in government.

MATTHEWS:  We haven‘t had a woman governor of New York, Pennsylvania, California, or probably Illinois.  These are big—the big jobs.  These are women coming out of industry with a proven executive record.

You mentioned, Jeanne, you said they‘re working their way one step at a time.  Meg Whitman is not going one step at a time.  She‘s going right for governor.

CARLSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Carly Fiorina is going right from H.P. for Senate.

CARLSON:  And, by the way, her reputation was mixed as a corporate executive.  So—

MATTHEWS:  So, are things changing?  Is the glass ceiling getting smashed at the top?

CARLSON:  I think there‘s a certain kind of corporate woman that the does look like she can run a big state because she‘s run a big country—I mean, a big company.

MATTHEWS:  Could it be that men are blowing it?  Just to be blunt—could it be that the quality of male candidates has declined, women candidates have gone up and they‘ve passed them on the old vector there?

CUMMINGS:  Well, I think that the women candidates can run in this year, the year of the outsider.  They can run as genuine outsiders.  And that is an asset when you have an anti-incumbent election.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

CUMMINGS:  And the other thing, in terms of Fiorina and Meg Whitman, they both are shooting, going to—trying to go from the corporate boardroom right into the governor‘s office or the Senate office, it is true.  However, their candidacies were made possible by the victories of women before them.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it‘s certainly true.

Well, what do you make of Sarah Palin‘s comment the other day?  Sarah Palin said her biggest accomplishment was that she produced a combat vet.  It sounds like women are running what we used to call the daddy party, the right—you know, the macho party.

CARLSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Women are now openly saying, I‘m tougher than the men, I can produce as a mother a combat vet, get out of my way.

Jeanne, this is strong tea here, if you will?

CUMMINGS:  Absolutely.  And I—I have to say, Sarah Palin, I think, has done something unprecedented when you look at gender politics.  And that is, she is so influential.  She is a kingmaker.  And we have not seen a female kingmaker—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s true.

CUMMINGS:  -- in political history.  She has really broken new ground.

I mean, what does a Huckabee nomination get you?  Page three on the local paper?  But Palin‘s nomination can be a complete game-changer, as we have seen.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at that picture as you‘re speaking, Jeanne, of her endorsing Nikki Haley.  Haley was at the back of the pack.  She‘s now probably going to be the next governor of South Carolina.

CARLSON:  But, wait, Chris, she is a kingmaker, but she is queen killer.  She killed Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas in favor of the incumbent, Governor Perry.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CARLSON: And look what she did to Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.  So, let

us—she is an equal opportunity maker and destroyer.  And always for the

--

      

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And I also think—I‘ve got to be careful, she‘s picking women candidates that men are ready to vote for, too.

CARLSON:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  This isn‘t just women voting for women here.  There‘s a lot of—there‘s obviously a lot of those right-wing men love Sarah Palin.  Let‘s be honest here.

Jeanne—thanks so much, Jeanne Cummings, for joining us.

Margaret Carlson, thank you.

When we return, I‘m going to have some thoughts about Glenn Beck‘s rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with that Glenn Beck rally Saturday.

I was out of town, or I would have been down there, talking to people.  That‘s what I did during the Million Man March back in 1995.  I was glad I did.

It‘s one thing to listen to the guy on the stage talking to an amplifier.  It‘s another to listen quietly to the people standing in the grass.  You got a lot different, more personal set of attitudes.

I saw the people coming across Memorial Bridge Saturday morning.  They were regular people, like people I grew up, middle, middle, if you will—maybe a little more conservative, some wore giant flags on their chest, but real people, regular Americans.

It brings me back personally to what Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural, given just weeks before his life ended, how he asked us not to be so self-righteous.  He spoke back then to people, we Americans divided in the civil war, literally at war with each other.  Our young men shooting at each other across open fields at point-blank range, aiming at each other‘s hearts.

Quote, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other.  But let us not judge that we be not judged.  The prayers of both could not be answered, that of neither has been answered fully.  The Almighty has his own purposes.”

So, I agree with Lincoln‘s sentiment, with malice toward none.  I like people who care about our country.  I like people who are passionate about it, who really feel something when they hear someone speak of America and what it stands for.  What I believe it stands for is respect for the individual human being, his and her right to become who they can.

I remember what Barack Obama said.  When I first heard him speak six years ago about this the being the only country in which a story like his is possible, where you can rise up to be president, where you can rise up to be host of a national television program and speak your own mind.

What I don‘t like to see is this positive love of our country, which we heard on the Washington Mall Saturday accompanying an agenda of anger and division.  Beck finally apologized on Sunday, a day after his rally, for calling the president of the United States a racist.  It would have been better, more courageous, more American to say that when he stood up there with the amplifier talking to all his people.  But better late than never.

As Lincoln said, “Let us judge not, that we be not judged.”

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

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