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updated 9/3/2010 2:51:23 PM ET 2010-09-03T18:51:23

Guests: Mara Schiavocampo, Norah O‘Donnell, Joe Solomonese, R. Clarke Cooper, Michael Crowley, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Michael Joseph Gross

(BREAKING NEWS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Last week, former Republican Party chairman and Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman announced publicly that he is gay.  He also said he plans to help build support for gay marriage.  He joined the prominent conservative attorney Ted Olson, who was the U.S. solicitor general under George Bush, in supporting the cause.

They‘re not the only ones.  Here‘s what Steve Schmidt, who steered John McCain‘s campaign in 2008, told The Huffington Post.  Quote, “There‘s a strong conservative case to be made in favor of gay marriage.  Marriage is an institution that strengthens and stabilizes society.  It is an institution that has the capacity to bring profound joy and happiness to people.  And it is a matter of equality and keeping faith with one of the charters of the nation, the right to live your life.”

Will more conservatives join what Schmidt calls a conservative case for gay marriage?  We‘re joined right now by R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, and Joe Solomonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Well, Joe, are you thrilled to have these unlikely supporters?  The Republicans are joining the ranks, calling for—I want to ask you in a minute whether you still think there may be a problem with going for same-sex marriage under the Constitution or (INAUDIBLE) going state by state.  But the first question is, are you happy to have your new allies here?

JOE SOLOMONESE, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN:  Absolutely.  I mean, every day, we see more and more people moving in the direction of supporting marriage equality.  As Ken Mehlman said, you know, the past is the past.  His offer was to help move us forward, to do what he could, and I think that, you know, we certainly don‘t have the luxury at this point in our movement to turn away any offer of help.  And so whether it‘s Ken Mehlman or Meghan McCain—you know, you mentioned elites within the Republican Party—I think they‘re well-respected figures within the Republican Party whose opinions matter greatly to Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t like the word elite.

SOLOMONESE:  Not that I don‘t like the word elite.  I just think that, you know—

MATTHEWS:  OK!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Ben Ginsberg, Ted Olsen, Ken Mehlman, Steve Schmidt—they‘re the top dogs.  Come on.  I‘m sorry.  They‘re right—

(CROSSTALK)

SOLOMONESE:  I guess you can be elite and well respected.

MATTHEWS:  And I am doing it somewhat disparagingly because I‘ve yet to see grass roots right-wing, soddy (ph) buster support for same-sex marriage, Clarke, so if you‘re going to make me—make the case for that, go ahead.

R. CLARKE COOPER, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS:  Hey!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Are the regular grass roots Republicans with you, or is this just the elite Republicans?

COOPER:  No, it is grass roots Republicans, I mean, because we‘re talking about everyday people.  Your average Log Cabin Republican donor is like your average RNC donor.  I don‘t know if you know this, but you know, $20 to $25 is the average donation of a Log Cabiner.  That‘s a police officer in Schenectady, New York, or a school teacher in Lawrence, Kansas.  So yes, grass roots is on board.  We‘ve been on board.  This is not new news.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying all kinds of people can be gay.

COOPER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I‘m just teasing.  I‘m playing Steve Colbert here for a minute.  Give me a break.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask you about whether—let me ask you about the key question.  First, Joe, you‘ve been following this and then—well, let me start with—let me start with Clarke because this is sort of a Republican question.  Scalia—I‘ve always watched Scalia.  After the Lawrence case on sodomy back a couple years ago, he said, Well, this opens the door to perhaps a view under the liberty clause, under the due process clause, of perhaps opening it up—the gay marriage, under the Constitution as a right.  So he saw it coming.  Whether he likes what he saw coming or not is my question.  Could Scalia be the surprising vote in the Supreme Court for this case against Prop 2 (SIC) in California, which would make it a right under our Constitution to have a same-sex marriage?

COOPER:  I‘m not going to speak on behalf of Justice Scalia.  But I will say if Perry versus Schwarzenegger does go up to a higher level, if it‘s escalated up to a Supreme Court case, then that will be part of the argument that was made at a lower federal court, that it is against the Constitution.  We‘re talking about inalienable rights here.  It is not just a part of the preamble but is also a conservative tenet, individual liberty, individual responsibility.  The case certainly can be made, and it will be made.  Mr. Olson‘s already made it once.  He‘ll continue to make it if there‘s an appeals process.

MATTHEWS:  Unless the crazies in your party get rid of the 14th Amendment.  Then you‘ll have problem, right?

COOPER:  I don‘t think there‘s any official move—actually, there‘s not an official move to withdraw any amendments from the Constitution at this time.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re getting so formal with me!

COOPER:  Nice try, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m talking about.  Joe, let me go to a liberal here.  Joe, it seems to me the situation is the right wing would like to give people, well, life, liberty and property protected under the 14th Amendment, except for due process, being denied by due process, at the same time some of the crazier elements in the Republican Party are talking about getting rid of the whole amendment because they don‘t like birth citizenship, or whatever you call it.  Your thoughts on that, the weirdness going on here.

SOLOMONESE:  Well, I mean, I think you‘re pointing out what may be has historically been a two-way split within the Republican Party now feels like a bit of a three-way split.  You know, you‘ve got moderate Republicans and the voices coming forward speaking out for marriage.  You‘ve got the tea party, which at least outwardly has gone to great lengths to avoid a discussion of social issues.  And then you‘ve got, you know, the far right, who have for a long time now been really the only voice out there against marriage equality, offering up all sorts of reasons why it‘s a bad idea.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SOLOMONESE:  And I think what is refreshing and helpful is a new chorus of voices coming forward countering that.  And then you add to that the case in California, where for the first time, they actually had to bring evidence forward to suggest that marriage equality was a bad idea, and as we saw, they had nothing to offer.

So you know, you talked about the grass roots.  It is true that among Republican voters generally we‘re lagging, I mean, you know, about 20 points or 30 points behind Democrats, 20 behind independents.  But again, I think as people like, you know, Ken Mehlman and others come forward, you‘re going to see those numbers start to move because there‘s been no counter—

MATTHEWS:  All right.  OK.

SOLOMONESE:  -- to the nutty right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s Schmidt, Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain campaign last time.  Quote, “More and more conservatives are saying that opposition to gay marriage would not be a litmus test for membership in the GOP and more conservatives are making the case that they no more would want big government conservatives in the bedroom than they want big government liberals telling them how to live.”

I think this brings us to the question, now—and I do believe, in behalf of your cause, Clarke, which I support—I think the more that people come out and express themselves in terms of their orientation, the more that families become openly aware of it and become somewhat protective and basically become allies in this cause.  And as it spreads and spreads and spreads, Republicans as well as Democratic and independent families join the cause for equality here.

But is the Republican platform going to change by 2012, sir? 

COOPER:  Well, we‘re working on it.

And we‘re not only just working on it from within the party, but just we‘re talking about grassroots.  Many of our chapter leaders in Log Cabin Republicans across the nation are delegates to the convention.  Some of them are actually what are the RNC Eagles, or the high donor level within the party. 

So, the dialogue is already there.  It‘s at a level that it hasn‘t ever been frankly.  My dialogue with the RNC and the campaign committees, the NRCC and the NRSC, is ongoing.  Not every member of the Republican Party, not every Republican officeholder is on the same page, but that‘s the whole point of why we‘re having dialogue. 

If I can get a member of Congress to at least agree to certain aspects, like employment nondiscrimination, that begins the dialogue, or if they agree to, say, repeal of don‘t ask, don‘t tell, that‘s another foothold into the dialogue. 

Some members of Congress, they just want to start out by addressing tax equity in the next Congress.  We will—we will take that.  But the ball is moving forward.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COOPER:  The party is getting back to basics.  This is—

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me tell you where it‘s not moving forward, Joe.  I was watching the Glenn Beck rally the other day, and I have got to tell you, the Christian right, under Palin, under the banner of Palin and Beck, they‘re trying to take that party from its secular roots, almost like a matchup with the Middle East politics, and they‘re trying to turn it into a Christian right party, with some Jewish conservatives, but mainly a Christian right party. 

They are trying to turn it into that, based upon God and Jesus and all this, in an incredibly un-American way, turning a political party into a religious institution.  I don‘t think it‘s going to help marriage equality. 

My thoughts.  Now, what are yours? 

COOPER:  Well, Glenn Beck, for starters, actually is fine with marriage equality.  So, we‘re not going to get in here and talk about semantics about some libertarian movements or some other voices within the Republican Party. 

We can, but, if we‘re talking about marriage equality—you happened to raise Mr. Beck‘s name—he—

MATTHEWS:  OK.   

COOPER:  -- actually is in support of it. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I guess I don‘t hear that sound coming from the—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- from the rally types.

But your thoughts, Joe.  How do you read it? 

SOLMONESE:  I—look, I completely agree with you with—you know, as you laid out the situation with Palin and Beck.

But it is interesting to note that, you know, maybe tactically, even Glenn Beck realizes that to have an intolerant view about marriage equality just doesn‘t square with growing the ranks of the Republican Party.  And so whether that is his individual view or whether it‘s sort of a tactical acknowledgement that you‘re not going to grow the ranks of the base unless you start to ease off on some of this stuff, I think is an interesting thing to see, that—that, you know, whether he feels that way or not—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SOLMONESE:  -- he said, “Marriage equality doesn‘t bother me.”

MATTHEWS:  It may not go too well with his new love power gambit. 

Anyway, thank you. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know, all of a sudden, after kicking the Democrats below the belts for months and months and months, they have decided to celebrate their victory going into November by acting like they are the good people. 

Hey, thank you, Clarke Cooper.  As always—

COOPER:  Hey, where is President Obama on marriage equality? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, not with us.

COOPER:  He‘s behind Dick Cheney.  He‘s behind Dick Cheney. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Not with us. 

Anyway, thank you—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  -- Clarke Cooper—

COOPER:  All right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- and Joe Solmonese.

SOLMONESE:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  They say George Washington always told the truth.  Well, the same might not be said of Mr. Beck.  We caught him in a big fib, a big fib.  That‘s coming in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

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

First: a whopper out of Glenn Beck.  Did you catch this colorful bit from Saturday‘s rally? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”:  I have been going to Mount Vernon.  I went to the National Archives, and I held the first inaugural address written in his own hand by George Washington. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Beck held Washington‘s inaugural address, a priceless piece of history, in his very own hands?  Guess what?  It never happened. 

A spokeswoman for the National Archives tells “Mother Jones” that, during Beck‘s VIP tour of the museum, he never got his hand on Washington‘s speech—Glenn Beck in performance. 

Next: lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Former Philadelphia Eagle lineman Jon Runyan retired this year to run as a Republican against New Jersey Democratic Congressman John Adler.  Here is Adler‘s hilarious ad going offer him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CONGRESSMAN JOHN ADLER CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  This is congressional candidate Jon Runyan‘s house.  Nice, isn‘t it?  Cost millions, except Runyan doesn‘t call it a house.  He tried to call it a farm.  Runyan bought one donkey to get a $20,000 tax break by saying he lives on a farm.  Luckily, he was caught. 

When New Jersey families are fighting to make ends meet, Jon Runyan is trying to rip the system off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I love that sound. 

When Runyan‘s campaign manager was asked back in January about this so-called farm, he said Runyan was doing nothing illegal—that‘s a great defense—and that the former lineman considers himself—quote—“a steward of the land.”

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Billionaire Jeff Greene isn‘t ready to move past his Senate primary loss to Kendrick Meek last week.  Greene is preparing a libel lawsuit against two Florida newspapers, “The Saint Pete Times” and “The Miami Herald,” for their reporting about potentially fraudulent real estate deals and parties on Greene‘s luxury yacht.

Well, Greene says the articles cost him the primary.  That claim is pretty farfetched, given the margin of 57 percent to 31 percent by which he lost to Congressman Kendrick Meek. 

How much is he looking for in damages?  Five hundred million dollars.  Greene says he would like to see the newspapers punished.  Well, the editor of “The Saint Pete Times” says he stands by the reporting. 

Greene‘s $500 million beat-the-press lawsuit—tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

And up next:  Many neoconservatives like what they heard from President Obama in last night‘s Oval Office address on Iraq.  Is the president moving to the right on foreign policy, so he can move left here at home? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Mara Schiavocampo, and here‘s what‘s happening. 

Police shot a man who was holding three people hostage at the Discovery Channel network‘s headquarters Wednesday, and all three were able to escape safely, officials said.  Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said he did not know whether police killed the gunman, who was upset about the network‘s programming. 

Police spent several hours negotiating with him after he burst into the suburban Washington building about 1:00 p.m. this afternoon waving a handgun with—and with canisters strapped to his body. 

Manger said an explosive device may have detonated, and the suspect may have brought other devices into the building.  He said, as far as he knows, the 1,900 people who work in the building were able to get out safely. 

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said authorities had identified James Jay Lee as the likely suspect—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Critics on the left ripped into President Obama‘s Iraq speech last night, but his address won praise from the right, especially neoconservatives.  William Kristol wrote—quote—“The president seemed to me to go after about as—as far as an anti-Iraq war president could go in praising the war effort—not a bad tribute to the troops, and not a bad statement of the importance and indispensability of hard power.”

Well, is the president taking a hawkish foreign policy approach, so he can move the party and the country in a progressive direction back at home?

Michael Crowley is the deputy bureau chief for “TIME” magazine.  And Rajiv Chandrasekaran is the—is an associate editor for “The Washington Post.” 

Let me start with Michael. 

Do you agree with me?  I think he has got a hold position on the right.  He‘s got Hillary Clinton over there, Gates over there, Petraeus over there, pretty much a—a keep-going policy on Afghanistan, basically a moderate departure from—from Iraq, doing basically what Bush would have done, so he can go liberal and progressive at home. 

Your thoughts?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, “TIME”:  You make a good point, Chris. 

He sent the signal right from the outset with his staffing decisions, putting in Jones, who was a Republican, who was friends with McCain at the National Security Council, Gates, and Hillary, who is—who obviously he criticized in the campaign for being hawkish. 

I think it‘s true.  There‘s been a lot of continuity.  Actually, on Iraq, Bush kind of moved in Obama‘s direction.  He signed the agreement with the Iraqis that really codified the withdrawals.  But when you look at things like pursuing the fight in Afghanistan, continuing some pretty heavy detention policies around the world, including Guantanamo Bay still being open, and military tribunals, that sort of thing, there is a lot of continuity.

And I think it stands to reason that Democratic presidents traditionally, as you know, feel a little defensive about foreign policy, particularly one who doesn‘t have military experience.  And I think his default instinct is probably to play it a little more cautious and conservative and try—and try to push the agenda on the domestic side. 

MATTHEWS:  But, Rajiv, this isn‘t the reason people voted for his fellow.  We voted for his instinct, which was, back in 2002, when everybody was saber-rattling and beating the drum for war with Iraq, a bad war, he was out there saying, no, this doesn‘t make sense.  There‘s no reason for this war. 

He was eloquent.  And now he gave a speech last night that sounded like some Republican from the hinterlands was offering a counter to what we expected him to say. 

Your thoughts? 

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, NATIONAL EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  And, you know, he never sort of came out and—and really expressed last night some of the key reasons for why this whole war effort was—was a total mistake to begin with. 

You know, he sort of danced around it.  Now, some people might say that wasn‘t the right time to do it.  It was a moment to—to pay respect to what the troops had—had accomplished, but he—he didn‘t really give the left anything in all of this.

And you look at Afghanistan—you know, he‘s a smart guy.  He sees through, I think, some of the real challenges that the counterinsurgency mission there has.  Yet, after three months of discussion at the White House, he essentially gave the military everything it wanted and really hasn‘t gotten a whole lot of credit for it. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  The counterinsurgency strategy, which is basically nation-building. 

Let‘s take a look here.  Here‘s the president telling soldiers—rather—at Fort Bliss that the war in Iraq made America more secure.  These are very important words—let‘s listen—from yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The fact of the matter is that, because of the extraordinary service that all of you have done and so many people here at Fort Bliss have done, Iraq has an opportunity to create a better future for itself, and America is more secure. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Michael, there‘s more than 100,000 Iraqis dead because of that war.  They are not better off.  And the whole world watched us kill them basically, or they got killed in that internecine fighting over there that we started. 

Now, here‘s the question.  Does anybody think, including the president, that we have less hostility facing us in the world after seven years of us killing Arabs on world television? 

CROWLEY:  No, I‘m sure he didn‘t.  I don‘t know that anyone does.

And I think what you‘re seeing now is probably a man who feels the responsibility of being a national leader.  These soldiers report up the chain of command to him. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

CROWLEY:  I think he probably doesn‘t want any soldier feeling like he‘s reporting to a president who thinks that the guy is risking his life in vain. 

But, look, if you had played some of the clips from that speech last week, you know, at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, if you had sort of a crystal ball thing, you know, in Iowa in late 2007, people would have been going crazy.  They would have been furious.  That is completely different tone.

And I think it‘s just reflective, number one, of that kind of caution and conservatism we discussed before, and, number two, I think the—the tone he feels he has to strike as a commander in chief and as a national leader. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ed Muskie, one of the most thoughtful members of the Senate there ever was, Rajiv—I worked for him for three years—I have to tell you, he once said, only talk when it improves the silence. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  What was gained by that speech last night?  Why didn‘t he just say, look, I salute the troops, they are great, they are courageous, they have sacrificed enormously in a war that‘s highly troubling to a lot of people, they are great, but I‘m not going to say anything about the war tonight, because everybody knows where I stood?  Or he doesn‘t even have to say that.  Just imply that. 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, you know, he wanted to claim credit for a campaign promise. 

MATTHEWS:  I see. 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  You know, he wanted to—to—to do something to, I think, you know, help energize his base in part.  Yet, it left them feeling completely, I think, unfulfilled. 

You know, I thought one of the most remarkable lines from that speech last night, Chris, was him saying, we have met our responsibility in Iraq. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  You know, can you imagine him as a candidate making that case, you know, the—the moral responsibility borne by the United States? 

Sure, you know, violence is down from its peak during the civil war, but does anybody really think that—that lives of—of Iraqis—

(CROSSTALK)

CHANDRASEKARAN:  -- are all that much better?  I mean, sure, they are not living under the thumb of a dictator—

MATTHEWS:  I know. 

CHANDRASEKARAN:  -- but—but, of all that has transpired there—and then to sort of assert that, well, yes, we now have fulfilled our responsibility as Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I‘m a huge fan of the writing of John Padoris (ph), like everybody else.  He‘s one of the great, gifted writers out there, guys.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  But he basically saluted the president last night.  And he‘s pretty much of a hawkish fellow. 

Here‘s President Obama pivoting from the Iraq war to the economy.  Now, maybe this is the purpose of the speech last night, to say, we‘re now going to have a peace dividend and that we have got to use it. 

Well, let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity.  We have spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. 

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. 

They have met every test that they faced.  Now it is our turn. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, sometimes, I really support the president in a lot of his views—in fact, all of them almost.  But I have to tell you, Michael, if he doesn‘t get rid of that teleprompter, it‘s like an eye test.  He‘s just reading words now.  It‘s separating him from us.  Your thoughts.

You go to a meeting with him, I‘m told.  Businessmen are invited to meet them at the White House, he hauls out the damn teleprompter.  And he reads it to them.  Well, why even bring people into the room, just have the teleprompter.  I sense it‘s getting between him and us.

And I thought the speech last night was a terrible, or a great example rather of him using the teleprompter instead of his heart and his mind.  He was reading words to us that any president could have written, had written for him and delivered.

CROWLEY:  Well, Chris, I think most of his problems have to do with the economy being in the toilet.  That‘s going to—

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t want to respond to my teleprompter discourse.

CROWLEY:  No, no.  No, no, that was me saying a set of point, then I would say, but, however, if there is a communication problem, I think that Obama was electrifying in these big halls with cheering crowds.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CROWLEY:  He was funny.  He was flashing that electric smile he has.  You know, he has his shirt—he‘s in his shirt sleeves and when he‘s behind the desk and he‘s doing the professorial thing, it‘s a little more stilted.  It‘s not the flash and pizzazz and the fun of the Obama who kind of swept the country off its feet.  I think it‘s a little more—it can be kind of deadly.

So, to that extent, I agree with you.  The teleprompter per se doesn‘t bother me as much.  It‘s more the scale.  I think on the smaller scale, he threatens to put you to sleep a little bit, particularly when we had expectations raised by those giant crowds, those stadium events that were so dazzling and electrifying in which he just—he worked so well.

MATTHEWS:  Rajiv, the medium and the message, both.  Your views.

CHANDRASEKARAN:  Well, you do the Oval Office address when you‘re launching the war, when you‘re trying to celebrate the fact that you‘re keeping a promise, that your troops are coming home.  Go and do it in front of a military audience and go get a crowd.  He did—he did the talk at Fort Bliss.  They should have used a military audience and a military base for the primetime address.

MATTHEWS:  Left it at that.  How about that?  Just left it at that.

Anyway, the teleprompter is a problem for this guy.  I think it‘s his menace.

Anyway, thank you very much, Michael Crowley and Rajiv Chandrasekaran for “The Post.”

Up next: Palin power.  Sarah Palin‘s influence has helped decide a slew of races.  Already, she‘s already—she‘s going after Iowa, by the way, having chalked up a big victory apparently up in Alaska, getting her candidate elected or nominated to the United States Senate, Joe Miller, out of nowhere.

She keeps winning, she keeps coming, and people keep doubting.  When are they going to stop doubting?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Another incumbent member of Congress is out.  Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has conceded in the Republican primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller.  Miller who was endorsed by Sarah Palin held a narrow lead after last week‘s primary.            

And after a week of counting absentee ballots, Murkowski said late last night that there was no scenario by which she could win.  And that makes her the seventh incumbent member of Congress to lose this year.

Miller now faces Democrat Scott McAdams—he‘s the mayor of Sitka, Alaska—in the general.  And while Miller is favored, Democrats may have a shot in that match-up.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Guess who is going to Iowa?  Sarah Palin.  “The Des Moines Register” reports that Palin will headline the Iowa Republican Party‘s big Ronald Reagan Day fundraiser in September 17th.  The paper notes that a party official said, after playing hard to get for the past year, Palin approached Iowa Republicans recently.

Well, Michael Joseph Gross has a big piece on Palin in the October issue of “”Vanity Fair.”  It‘s called “Sarah Palin the Sound and the Fury.”  And MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell also joins us.

Thank you so much, Michael.

And thank you, Norah, for joining us.

Norah is, of course, has been covering Governor Palin for all these months.

Michael, is she running for president?

MICHAEL JOSEPH GROSS, VANITY FAIR:  If you look at the connection she has with the crowds, if you look at the way that she compares herself to Ronald Reagan out there, if you feel the force of the connection, which is unlike anything I‘ve felt since I saw Reagan give his last speeches, I don‘t see how you can come to any other conclusion.

MATTHEWS:  Your reporting is based upon everything you‘ve seen.  What

is there anything out there that would be an impediment to her running, anything that would encourage her not to run, be it embarrassment, anything in a way of here just make a run for it?  What‘s she got to lose?

           

GROSS:  Well, she‘s got basically her whole history.  There is a town full of people up in Wasilla.  There is a whole crowd of people who she has alienated herself from who have been trampled, beaten down by this woman, who are so intimidated by her, that they have been too scared to speak out.

MATTHEWS:  But they will speak out if she runs, you think?

GROSS:  I think they will.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at her.  Here she is at the Glenn Beck rally on Saturday and then I want to hear what Norah thinks about after reporting on her all this time.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  And I know that many of us today, we are worried about what we face.  Sometimes our challenges, they just seem insurmountable, but here together, at crossroads of our history, may this day—may this day be the change point.

Look around you.  You‘re not alone.  You are Americans!

You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King.  It is in you.  It will sustain you as it sustained them.

So, with pride in the red, white, and blue, with gratitude to our men and women in uniform, let‘s stand together.  Let‘s stand with honor.  Let‘s restore America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  You know, I—Norah, every time I hear her in that sort of voice she develops there when she‘s on the platform, I don‘t think it‘s her regular speaking voice, I hear Tina Fey.  I hear Tina Fey doing her and it works for the crowd.

Now, the question is: Can you give us—I know you have to be objective, but is there any way you can read through the lines?  She‘s going to Iowa.  She‘s an evangelical Christian.  She‘s playing the Christian woman, the grizzly—the mama grizzly, but also with the religious overtone like she‘s never played before.  Isn‘t that setting her up to really being the Christian woman running for president in Iowa where she could win that all important early test?

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely.  She‘s different from the other Republicans who will run, who are white males who can‘t make the same sort of connection with voters that she can.  She‘s both vulnerable, she‘s both problematic, all of her family issues—and that‘s what connects with her.

I‘ve been on the road with her.  It sounds better in person than it does perhaps on camera.  She does connect well with voters.

I think that she‘s going to Iowa is significant.  Not just because she reached out and wanted to go to this dinner, but it suggests she has an interest in 2012, after sort of feigning that, been more interested in selling books, making lots of money, I think she‘s starting to like the adoration that she gets out there and she might be propelled by some of her—

MATTHEWS:  Who wouldn‘t?

O‘DONNELL:  -- might be propelled by some her staffers and those close to her to consider something bigger.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s a line from Michael‘s piece in the upcoming new issue of “Vanity Fair.”

“According to almost anyone or everyone who has ever known her, including those who have seen the darkest of her dark side, Sarah Palin has a great gift for making people feel good about themselves.”

Michael, I‘ve been reading your piece.  She has the ability to look you in the eye and be totally focused on you.  That is an ability of all great politicians.

GROSS:  That‘s right.  The problem is now, what she‘s doing, instead of just telling people that they‘re good, is planting in them the idea that they might not be good enough.  What she‘s telling them is: they don‘t think you‘re smart enough, the Democrats, Obama.  They don‘t think you know what‘s going on.  They don‘t think you‘re good enough.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that question is pretty good, and I want to go with that very question, Michael, and your thoughts.

It seems to me that she has this sort of SDI, the strategic defense, that says, OK, I don‘t have to know all the answers, I don‘t have to answer to Katie Couric‘s question about what I read, I don‘t have to really read anything to be honest about it, as long as I am a mother who had a son in combat, I raised a family, I‘m a regular person—that‘s sort of her force field and she just says, no matter what the question, I don‘t need to know the answer to that because I‘m an American mother.

At what point does that become not use—not even—well, even ludicrous when you‘re asked a question about how are you going to deal with the Middle East peace problems, how are you going to deal with nuclear technology around the world, what‘s a common sense solution when there are no common sense solution?  It takes a lot of ingenuity to figure out what to do with these problems.  When will the voters say, enough of this common sense line of yours, what‘s the answer?

GROSS:  Well, I feel like we should have reached that point a long time ago.  The question has as much to do with when those of us who are sitting in these chairs and looking in these cameras are going to stop giving her the attention that feeds this fire.  She‘s proven that she is a person for whom there is no matter to small to lie about.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GROSS:  There is no distinction between fact and fiction in what she talks.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll see how your piece runs.

Norah, your thoughts.  You‘ve been through the piece, you‘ve covered her.  How do you react to the piece you read by Michael in the “Vanity Fair” edition coming out?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, I think it‘s fascinating and it captures really what is the sort of complex person that Sarah Palin is.  And that Palin brand is exactly what makes her so marketable—why she can sell 2 million books and why people come out in droves to see her.

I also think what‘s fascinating is her use of the North Star.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I know that.

O‘DONNELL:  I mean, that is a great narrative—good presidential campaigns need a narrative.  She can be this celestial guide post in a time when most Americans—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

O‘DONNELL:  -- think the country is headed in the wrong direction.  And that can be a powerful narrative.  But she‘s got to work on the substance.

MATTHEWS:  Maybe we need David Broder to come back and really be strong, we need some gatekeepers again in this business.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Joseph Gross.

GROSS:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  The big piece coming out in “Vanity Fair,” a hell of a magazine, by the way.

And Norah O‘Donnell.

When we return, I‘ll have some advice for Democrats about how they can prevent a big Republican victory this November if they play it right.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with the politics of this November.

If the Republicans want to roll up the score, they‘re on the right path.  Energized by the Tea Party grassroots, driven by a nasty economy and by a ferocious propaganda campaign that paints the Democrat in the White House as a terrorist sympathizer, they can just keep doing what they‘re doing.

Democrats have a tougher task.  How to win when things are so darn bad?  Well, the smart, tough, hard-nosed strategy is to play to your strengths.

Democrats have always been trusted first and foremost on the economic basics—bread and butter, looking out for people in trouble.  They‘re the party you vote for when you‘re unemployed, when you‘re really need unemployment insurance, when you‘re worried about retiring and needing every cent of that Social Security check you spent your life working for.

Democrats are also the people you tend to trust when you see that the grand loudly promised benefits of globalism and greater productivity are going to the boys on Wall Street, when your factory is closing, when you‘re being cut from a job you‘ve spent decades doing your best at.

Well, look, this is going to be a tough year for the Democrats, but if they‘re smart, they‘ll start talking about real ways to create jobs, making steel to build rapid rail track and fast-moving trains, bringing big, big heavy, good-paying industrial jobs back to put men and women to work here in our American neighborhoods because of real capital investments and rebuilding our subways and bridges and road systems—real jobs to replace the smell of decay with the healthy smell of construction, of dirty being moved and foundations being laid and real, good old, almost forgotten factory noise.

Oh, you‘ll be knocked for talking like this.  You‘ll be mocked by the smoother, better off critics out there.  But the working people will hear you as real, and Mr. And Mrs. Democrat may well end up with a good piece of the political action, even this November—not only that, but one day, sooner than you think, with a place in the sun.

Democrats, did you hear me?  Play your strengths: work and wages.

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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