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  1. Headline
updated 9/8/2010 1:53:03 PM ET 2010-09-08T17:53:03

Guests: Chuck Todd, Julia Boorstin, John Heilemann, Roger Simon, Jim Kessler, David Corn, Wes Moore, Ari Rabin-Havt

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  New blood.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Shake-up.  Mayor Daley of Chicago has started the chain reaction.  He‘s not running for reelection.  Rahm Emanuel, the president‘s chief of staff, wants his job.  The announcement from Chicago comes as President Obama faces the worst poll numbers ever in our latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll. 

This is the moment when a tough hardball manager makes his move.  This is the time when the team general manager, in this case the president, does what he sees more than anyone else needs to be done.  The team‘s losing.  He can still salvage the season.  Shake-up time, big-time!

I recommend that he get Hillary Clinton and his chief of defense to toughen up the security team and move the Middle East talks to a higher level.  He then brings in a real heavyweight, a real heavyweight, to run the White House, to serve as the government‘s chief operating officer.  How about New York mayor Mike Bloomberg?  How about Colin Powell?  Why not make his move now, not the sad morning after the election?

We‘ll look at our new poll numbers and hear some of the new tough talk about the president.  We‘ll also talk to one man who saw the Democrats‘ huge 1994 defeat coming before others did and says it doesn‘t have to have happen this time if President Obama steals a page from a former president‘s playbook.  That‘s Ronald Reagan‘s.

Plus: Two weeks ago, Pastor Terry Jones of Florida came on HARDBALL to defend his plans to burn Qurans on September 11.  Well, today General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Jones‘s Quran-burning party could endanger the lives of American servicemen and women and threaten our overall effort in the Middle East.  Jones says he‘s still going forward.  More on that later tonight on HARDBALL.

Plus, bagging the Tea Party.  A group of liberal organizations has created a new Web site to monitor the more intolerant elements of the Tea Party.  Right-wingers don‘t like it.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with this.  It‘s time for that shake-up at the White House.  That‘s if President Obama wants a second term.

We start with the shake-up.  Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and our chief White House correspondent and John Heilemann is senior political writer for “New York” magazine.

Gentlemen, facts have come on the table.  One, the mayor of Chicago is not running again.  Fact, Rahm Emanuel has said on “Charlie Rose” he wants the job.  Fact, the poll numbers coming in from NBC, and Chuck‘s got them, are terrifically bad, let‘s put it that—time for a shake-up.  Your thoughts, Chuck?  What do you know?  What can you report?

CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, here‘s what we can tell you.  Look, the fact is, Rahm Emanuel put out a statement today talking about and praising Mayor Daley.  If he wanted to stop speculation about him running for mayor of Chicago, we‘d have that statement.  The fact is, we don‘t have that statement.

I talk to some folks very familiar with how mayors‘ races, city politics, works, and they say even though the filing deadline for mayor is not until December, that, realistically, Rahm has about a week or two to make a decision and make one publicly because if he doesn‘t, he risks seeing others who may have similar—similar plays at constituency groups, the business community in Chicago, things like that, filling the void, and that he needs to make his decision sooner rather than later.

Now, actually, the timing on that isn‘t ideal for the White House.  You talk about this shake-up.  There was going to be a reorganization of some form around when they were going to start the reelection of the campaign, whether that‘s David Axelrod moving to Chicago to run the reelect, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, Rahm Emanuel going somewhere—you know, all of this was in the works over the next three to six months.  The fact is, now what do they do if Rahm leaves in the next week?  Do they bring in somebody temporarily, say a Ron Klain from the vice president‘s office, or do they do—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

TODD:  -- what you‘re advocating—

MATTHEWS:  What about heavy—

TODD:  -- the big change?

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s cut to the quick.  What about heavyweights coming in to help this president, to bolster him?  Running as a solo act, I think he‘s got problems going into reelection time in a year or two.  I don‘t think it‘s working.  He needs a stronger team.  That‘s my assessment.  He can‘t just raise or elevate some deputies in the White House and make everybody feel better.  He wouldn‘t do that, would he, at this point?  That‘s what you do in, like, your seventh year of a presidency, you promote the deputies.  Doesn‘t he need to go outside to get somebody big like Bloomberg, like Colin Powell, bring in Hillary as secretary of defense, bolster the power of this administration before he faces defeat on election day, or does he wait until after he loses?

TODD:  Oh, you‘re definitely going to see, I think, bigger names come in.  The question is, when do you do it?  Do you do after the election?  Do you do it at the first of the year?  I just think it‘s simply a timing issue.  Or do you do it now?  Look, Chris, I think there‘s a problem with doing it now, politically.  It could look like you‘re throwing in the towel now in many ways and you‘re already planning for the defeats and planning to figure out what‘s next.

You might, you might say, We‘ll wait until after the election.  But look, I think—you know, you‘re—you‘re pointing out some business folks.  I think some odd candidates that could get floated is a guy like Ed Whitacre, former—now the guy who‘s stepping down as head of GM, somebody who is friendly with this White House—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  OK.

TODD:  -- that brings in that CEO, or Mark Warner, senator from Virginia.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take—let‘s go right now to John Heilemann.  Your sense?  Can you report anything about a shake-up?  Because these numbers are dreadful.  I‘m going to get to them in one minute.  They are truly dreadful.  Your thoughts.

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK”:  Well, look, I think you‘re right, Chris, in the sense that a shake-up is necessary and I think a shake-up is coming.  And the Rahm thing is going to be the trigger for that.  And I think Chuck is right, took, in the sense that something like this was going to happen.  But the dreadfulness of the numbers and I think the pressure on the president now to do something bold in terms of his personnel is going to be very, very high.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  I think as important as how big the name is is the idea of getting someone from outside the inner circle.  Obama, in both the campaign and in the White House, has been one of these guys who‘s governed with a very, very tight circle of aides around him.  He trusts very few people—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  -- takes advice from very few people.  That worked well for him during the campaign, maybe has not worked as well for him in the White House.  He needs to go to someone who will tell him unpleasant truths, someone who has the stature to say to him, in the way that Leon Panetta did to Bill Clinton in the second half of Bill Clinton‘s first term, and say, Listen, buddy, you got to get with the program here.  I‘m here to tell you things you don‘t want to hear and he—

MATTHEWS:  OK, well let‘s—let‘s take a look—I want to get to this—John, it‘s good thoughts here, and I agree completely, by the way, your thinking.  He needs heavyweight, and they can‘t all be from Chicago.  That‘s his kind of town, not everybody‘s, although I love the place.

Here‘s the president talking about the personality of this fight.  It is getting deeply personal.  The Republicans are going for the kill.  Here he is saying that he‘s being called or treated like a dog.  I‘ve never heard a president talk like this, saying, People are treating me like a dog.  Is this going to work, and with who?  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And over the last two years, that‘s meant taking on some powerful interests, some powerful interests who have been dominating the agenda in Washington for a very long time.  And they‘re not always happy with me.  They talk about me like a dog.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  That‘s not in my prepared remarks, it‘s just—but it‘s true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now, I don‘t think that would have gotten past even your staff.  Let‘s take a look at the new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll.  We‘ll go through this with Chuck -- 61 percent of the American people now say this country is on the wrong track.  Compare that to numbers back in 2006 and 1994, earlier times of change politically, 54 percent, 57, never any number like this.

Chuck, this is bad news.  I know you and I always talk about the “wrong track” number.

TODD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s basically the American people saying, We are being led in the wrong direction.

TODD:  Well, that‘s right.  Any time we‘ve had a change election, the “right track”/”wrong track” number looks the way it looks now.  And the fact that this wrong track number is higher than at the same point in time in ‘06, the same point in time in 1994, and frankly, the same time point in time, I believe, in 2008, that just shows you it is going to be a big change election unless somehow, something changes—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

TODD:  -- for the president and the Democrats.  One thing they‘re going to focus on that they think they can do is somehow motivate these unmotivated Democratic voters that are sitting there and have no interest in this election.  That‘s going to cost them—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

TODD:  -- two or three Senate seats, if they can‘t get them out.

MATTHEWS:  To make your point, I think the only happy people in America right now are the ones who are happy because they‘re so angry and they‘re going to get to vote against this guy.  Check out the difference now between likely voters, people who are probably going to vote in this off-year election, and the regular voters—all registered voters.  Look at this -- 49 to 40 is how he‘s losing right now based on the generic ballot right there, 49 percent to 40 percent among people who are actually going to vote.  It‘s a dead heat if everybody votes, but most people aren‘t going to bother to vote.  Of those who are going to vote, he gets killed by 9 points.

The president‘s job approval stands at 49 percent among registered voters, 49 percent disapproval in his performance among likely voters, 41 percent positive, 56 percent disapproval among—John Heilemann, 56 percent disapproval among the people who are going to vote this November.

HEILEMANN:  You know, we‘ve been talking for months, Chris, about the enthusiasm gap, you know, that‘s been showing up in polling, that Republicans or Republican-inclined voters are much more likely, much more energized, much more likely to get out to vote in this election.  And now that we‘re getting closer to election day, and as the polling is getting more granular, we‘re starting to actually see it come out in the difference between the registered voter splits and the likely voter splits.  That‘s what you‘re seeing right here.

And you know, it‘s interesting.  The thing that the administration, in addition to Obama‘s tough rhetoric today, they‘re really going to try to put on—to try to—what they think of as kind of open the eyes of some of these voters who say in these polls also that they don‘t—they‘re for the Republicans, but they‘re against going back to George Bush‘s economic policies.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

HEILEMANN:  They want to try to say to them, Look, this is exactly what you‘re going to get if the Republicans come in.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

HEILEMANN:  In fact, it‘s going to be worse than it was under Bush.  It‘s going to be more extreme.  That‘s what they‘re saying.  That‘s what Obama‘s going to be saying a lot in the next few weeks.

MATTHEWS:  Well, unfortunately, John, that‘s not what the polling is showing.

HEILEMANN:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  Fifty-six percent of Americans—

HEILEMANN:  I know.

MATTHEWS:  -- disapprove of President Obama‘s handling of the economy, 58 percent thought Republicans would offer different ideas on how to jump start the economy.  Only 35 percent thought the party would return to its old Bush policies.  That is a staggering statement as to the success of the Republican PR campaign, Chuck.

TODD:  I disagree that it‘s about a success in the PR campaign.  I think this is twofold.  One is you have a fed-up public.  And they have two choices here, to go and stay in what they believe is the same path that President Obama and Democrats offer—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

TODD:  -- or to go a different path.  And so the voter is putting the best possible face on their vote here.  So why—they tell us that the Bush policies were unpopular.  In fact, it is the second most unpopular attribute for a congressional candidate to have.

MATTHEWS:  So they have—they‘re being optimistic—

TODD:  They‘re being optimistic—

MATTHEWS:  -- and have a rosy scenario of Republicanism.

TODD:  Correct.  It‘s actually the same thing that Barack Obama benefited from in 2008.

MATTHEWS:  Wow!

TODD:  People put the most positive—you know, remember independents though, Well, he‘s going to be a moderate.  Liberals thought, He‘s going to be the great liberal.  People—they became sort of—they became the hope candidate.  In many ways, this idea of—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

TODD:  -- a new Republican Congress—voters are just being hopeful, even if the evidence—even if they haven‘t seen any hard evidence to prove them—to prove it otherwise.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Chuck, it‘s like one of those old Santa Claus masks that used to be in the store windows that always seemed to be looking at you, you know, when you‘re walking by.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Hey, he‘s with me!  That guy‘s with me!

TODD:  He‘s going to give me that toy!

MATTHEWS:  John Heilemann—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  John Heilemann, the same question to you.  Do you take the same view, that when people—voters are saying, Oh, they‘re not going back to their old ways, they‘ve got some whole new Republican approach which is less spending, less taxes, all the good old—no, not the good old Bush stuff but the real conservative stuff, the gold?

HEILEMANN:  I think they‘re rationalizing it.  And I think there‘s another piece of the polling in the NBC poll that talked about how when people were asked directly, Are you voting against President Obama or are you voting for the Republicans, more of them said they were in favor of the Republicans.  They were saying this is a positive, affirmative vote.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  I just think those people are not exactly lying but they‘re lying to themselves.  They‘re rationalizing a vote because they can‘t—nobody likes to vote purely in a negative way, purely as a protest vote.

TODD:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  They want to feel as though they‘re voting for something, even if they on some level don‘t really understand what they‘re voting for or have rationalized that the thing they‘re voting for is something different from what is actually on the table.

MATTHEWS:  You mean like people that say they don‘t respond to negative advertising.

TODD:  Right.  Exactly like that.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD:  That‘s the only thing they respond to.

MATTHEWS:  Don‘t you—where do those people live, by the way?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Chuck, it‘s the only thing that works.  That‘s why they keep doing it.

TODD:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you—not that it should work.  Thank you, Chuck Todd.  Thank you, John Heilemann.

Coming up: So the Democrats have a tough road ahead.  There may be ways they can avoid a major catastrophe this fall and only have a small catastrophe this November, how they could avoid what happened in ‘94, in other words.  We‘re going to talk to one man who saw ‘94 coming.  He wrote a memo about it to the Democratic leaders and said, Be careful, this is what‘s going to happen.  They didn‘t all listen to him and they did have a catastrophe.  This time, we‘re going to let you hear what his advice is to the president.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Labor Day marks the traditional start of the general election campaign, the season, if you will.  And in California, governor candidate Jerry Brown has watched his Republican opponent outspend him over by $100 million so far.  So now Brown‘s up with his first TV ad highlighting the job he did when he was governor back in the ‘70s.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As governor, he cut waste, got rid of the mansion and the limo.  Budgets were billion, $4 billion in tax cuts, world class schools and universities, clean energy promoted, 1.9 million new jobs created.  California was working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  He‘s hoping that his “back to the future” message will work.  The latest Pollster.com average shows Whitman‘s running ahead about 4 points, clearly within the margin of error.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me and that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow!  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was America‘s introduction to Barack Obama in 2004 and his acknowledgment that only in America was his story possible inspired us.  And as he battled through the 2008 primaries, he retold that story, and it was electric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  My own story tells me that in the United States of America, there‘s never been anything false about hope, at least not if you‘re willing to work for it, not if you‘re willing to struggle for it, not if you‘re willing to fight for it.  I should not be here today.  I should not be here today.  I was not born into money or status.  I was born to a teenage mom in Hawaii.  My father left us when I was 2.  But my family gave me love.  They give me an education.  And most of all, they gave me hope, hope that in America, no dream is beyond our grasp if we reach for it and fight for it and work for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I get the same thrill up my leg all over me every time I hear those words.  I‘m sorry, ladies and gentlemen.  That‘s me.  He‘s talking about my country, and nobody does it better.

Can President Obama stir us again and help his party keep power this November?  Jim Kessler is co-founder and vice president of Third Way, a progressive think tank.  Roger Simon, our buddy, is chief political columnist for Politico.

Gentlemen, with a little bit of sentiment—Roger, try here.  Try to stick with—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It seems to me that what thrilled me, and I admitted it so many times, was when he talked about America.  He wasn‘t saying, I‘m going to do this because I‘m a big shot and I‘m a brain.  He said, You know, I was lucky, and also I was fortunate to live in this country, and we can do things (INAUDIBLE) without a lot of help from government and big stuff, on our own we can do things.  That‘s what your piece is about, isn‘t it.

JIM KESSLER, THIRDWAY.ORG:  Right.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t talk like that anymore.

KESSLER:  I think it‘s hard to talk like that when you‘re in the middle of a lot of legislative battles.  But if you look back, 10.8 percent unemployment, 6.3 percent inflation, declining GDP, doubling of the deficit over the previous years and presidential approval rating south of 40 percent, Ronald Reagan, November, 1982, at the exact moment of the mid-term elections, he held all 54 Republican Senate seats.  They lost a couple dozen House seats, which is basically par for the course.  It shows you have an economic environment as bad or worse as what the Democrats and Barack Obama are facing.

MATTHEWS:  If?

KESSLER:  If—you have to own one thing.  You have to own optimism.  And that‘s what President Reagan was selling to the American people, a destination, a vision about success and where American could go—

MATTHEWS:  Was that a confidence in themselves or in his program?

KESSLER:  I think it was confidence in himself as a leader because there was doubts about Reaganomics.  Reaganomics hadn‘t worked for one moment at that point, but they understood the destination where he wanted to take this country.  And, you know, he—you hitched a wagon to him.  And people stuck—stuck—stuck with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Somebody is giving him other advice here.  He‘s getting it somewhere else—

SIMON:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  -- because this, they‘re talking—they‘re treating me like a dog, this whining—not whining—that‘s a knock.  But he‘s talking like he‘s being put down. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s not being put down.  He‘s being criticized. 

SIMON:  No, he‘s the president of the United States.  He can‘t portray himself as a victim. 

One other thing that the Republicans had going for them in ‘94 is that the Democrats were fat and sassy and lazy and didn‘t see it coming.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SIMON:  Also, they had a movement leader in Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America.  It was more symbolic than real, but people said, oh, here it is in writing. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SIMON:  This is a good deal.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but only a fifth of the people knew about that so-called contract before they—let me ask you about Jim‘s point about the basic speech he used to give about America.

No one questioned Barack Obama‘s Americanism when he was running as a candidate.  They didn‘t talk about his religion.  They knew he had an exotic name, Barack Obama.  But that was—like a lot of our names, they‘re accidents of our parents or grandparents. 

SIMON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t who we are.  Now the Republicans have tagged him with that as his identity.  He is Barack Hussein Obama.  That‘s who he is, as an identity, because he doesn‘t seem to wow us with his love of the country, like he used to.  That‘s my thought. 

SIMON:  Well, I think he is suffering under the belief that he has got to do something for an encore.  He can‘t go back to the past.

And you saw on the podium the past placard change you can believe in, change we can believe in. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SIMON:  Well, now people have a right to say, where is the change? 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s a year-and-a-half.

SIMON:  Where is it?  It didn‘t happen.  People are impatient. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SIMON:  They want to see something. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did they put up with Reagan for a year-and-a-half of nothing but 11 percent unemployment, much higher than this? 

SIMON:  Reagan, as Barack Obama is, though in different ways, a very magnetic, personable figure that people liked and trusted. 

Barack Obama, as I said, is the same.  By Election Day, he cannot improve the unemployment figures.  But, by Election Day, he can goose up the Democrats. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  OK.

SIMON:  He can make them confident—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Here‘s the—let‘s watch Reagan for a second.  And then I‘m going to ask you, Jim, can a Democrat be turned on the way a Republican can?  I know I can. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m somewhere in the middle, slightly left, but I‘m there.  And I can get turned on by America as anybody on the right.  But maybe—I want to ask you whether Democrats really want to be positive. 

Here he is.  Here‘s Reagan being positive, maybe talking to the choir. 

Here he is in January of 1982.  Let‘s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 24, 1982)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Don‘t let anyone tell you that America‘s best days are behind her, that the American spirit has been vanquished.  We have seen it triumph too often in our lives to stop believing in it now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Can a Democrat talk like that? 

KESSLER:  Yes.  I mean, look, you talked about the tingle up your leg. 

I mean—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It wasn‘t a tingle up my leg.  That‘s what right-wing fascists -- 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I got a thrill -- 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re reading the right-wing blogs.

KESSLER:  My apologies. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, it‘s not enough. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Because you‘re reading the wrong stuff. 

But go ahead.  I was kidding.  I can take it.  I‘m sorry. 

(CROSSTALK)

KESSLER:  Yes. 

Look, I think, in general, it‘s a little bit harder with Democrats because we are, by nature, you know, a lot of times—we‘re aggrieved interests.  You know, there‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But what about—I met a woman the other day who is out of work.  She‘s may age.  She‘s been looking for a job.  She says they‘re only hiring young good-looking wait persons or waitresses, and I can‘t get a job.  And I need one.  And it‘s tough out there. 

And she‘s a Democrat.  She was talking to me about her politics.  And what do you say to her?  Where is her optimism going to come from, from this president? 

KESSLER:  OK.  Well, let me give you—we did a poll.  Let me give you one number from our poll.

We asked people, do you think you‘re doing better economically than the average American?  And 71 percent said yes, and 15 percent said no.

MATTHEWS:  What does that tell you? 

KESSLER:  What it tells you is, this is an optimistic, success-oriented population who think it‘s Lake Wobegon.  Everybody is getting a B-plus. 

But, yes, look, one of the things that Reagan understood—and I think this is very important—when you‘re governing in very, very, very bad economic times, you can‘t sell people on your accomplishments and on the state of where things are right now.  You have to sell them on the destination of where you‘re going to take them. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Has he done that?  Has the president sold the route we‘re on? 

SIMON:  No.  He‘s just started, though.  He cannot tell people—he‘s got to do what he did before, in this one sense -- 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SIMON:  -- that, as difficult as it was to elect the first black president, it‘s going to be this difficult to reelect a Democratic Congress.  And he‘s got to inspire people to do it. 

It‘s a low-turnout election.  Only 40 percent of the electorate are going to vote—

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  -- compared to about 56 percent in the general—I‘m sorry—

63 percent in the general. 

MATTHEWS:  He can get young people, minorities and progressives out to vote by doing what? 

SIMON:  By filling them with enthusiasm, hope and the belief that it can be done. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SIMON:  If they sit around and listen to the polls, they‘re going to stay home. 

MATTHEWS:  They will give up.  Thank you.  Well said.  I do agree with that.  I think, if they give up, the game is over. 

Thank you very much, Jim Kessler, good—good provocative writing. 

Be positive.  Get the confidence level of the team up.

Roger Simon, as always.

Up next:  Congressional Democrats are running away, far away, from their crowning achievement.  Now, this is a bad sign.  They‘re not talking in their ads at all about health care, which is astounding, after all that incredible pain and effort to get this through. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL, and to the “Sideshow.” 

It was an instant classic.  Here‘s Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank last August responding to a town hall question that tied health care to Nazism. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy?  Why are you supporting—

(CROSSTALK)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  As you stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis, my answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

(APPLAUSE)

FRANK:  Ma‘am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.  I have no interest in doing it.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that questioner—Rachel Brown is her name—is now looking to lengthen her Andy Warhol 15 minutes of frame.  She has filed as a challenger to Congressman Frank in the Massachusetts Democratic primary set for September 14.

Frank‘s reaction—quote—“I regard her as an example of the price you pay for free speech.”

Next: tall tale‘s over in Arizona.  In defending her state‘s tough now new anti-illegal immigration law, Governor Jan Brewer made a shocking claim. 

Here she is on FOX in June. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL, JUNE 2010)

GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA:  It is a good bill.  And it‘s another tool for us to be able to use in order to get our borders under control.  We cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings and the fact that people can‘t feel safe in their communities. 

It‘s wrong.  It‘s wrong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the word that no doubt jumped out at you there was beheadings, a real showstopper.

Anyway, her claim was immediately challenged by medical examiners along the border who said they had never heard of such beheadings.  Despite repeated questioning, Brewer stood her ground, until this weekend. 

Three months after she made that beheading claim, Governor Brewer has now admitted to the Associated Press that she misspoke about those border beheadings.  What, we can only guess, did she intend to be saying? 

Moving on:  Talk about a detour.  With just two months to go before the midterm and a crucial homestretch, where is Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele?  He‘s in Guam.  Steele arrived today to do fund-raisers on an island 6,000 miles away from the U.S. mainland. 

Well, you know what they say.  As goes Guam, so goes Michael Steele. 

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Democrats this year heralded a historic and hard-fought victory, the passage of a sweeping health care reform bill that would extend coverage to some 30 million Americans who were not covered.  It was to be the party‘s crowning political and partisan and policy achievement, an accomplish that Democrats could hang their laurels on for generations to come. 

So, this political cycle, how many House Democrats are running TV ads touting the passage of health care?  According to Politico, zero.  No House Democrat is standing by the party‘s most significant accomplishment in decades.  It just tells you how rough times are for the Democrats. 

Let no good deed go unpunished—zero TV ads for Obama health care, tonight‘s very telling big zero number. 

Up next:  A pastor in Florida is still planning to burn Korans on September 11, despite warnings from General David Petraeus that doing so could put American troops in serious danger. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closing lower, light summer trading after a holiday weekend, the Dow sliding 107 points, the S&P 500 falling 12, and the Nasdaq slipping 24 points. 

Renewed concerns about European debt weighing heavily on the financial sector.  A “Wall Street Journal” article said July‘s stress tests weren‘t thorough enough and some banks are holding riskier portfolios than everyone thought.  Adding to concerns, rumors those banks could now be required to hold higher levels of Tier 1 capital. 

The shakeup left big banks lower, as investors moved back out of the sector after some significant gains last week.  Investors are increasingly jittery about high volatility in this traditionally stable sector. 

Meanwhile, a big legal battle is brewing over HP‘s former CEO Mark Hurd.  Hurd wants to join rival Oracle as co-president.  HP is suing to stop him, saying his intimate knowledge of trade secrets could give Oracle an unfair advantage. 

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE

FORCE:  It puts our soldiers at jeopardy, very likely.  And I think, in fact, the images from such an activity could very well be used by extremists here and around the world. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That‘s, of course, General David Petraeus out in the field warning on the effect on our troops if a Florida pastor follows through with his planned Koran burning on 9/11.  That‘s coming up this Saturday, I believe.

But the pastor responded to the general with a paper statement that reads in part—quote—“We understand the general‘s concerns.  We are sure that his concerns are legitimate.  Still, we feel that it‘s time for America to quit apologizing for our actions and bowing to kings.”

Well, Wes Moore served in Afghanistan in 2005 and 2006.  He‘s author of “The Other Wes Moore.”  And David Corn writes for “Mother Jones” magazine and PoliticsDaily.com.

I want to go to Captain Wes Moore.

Thank you for your service, by the way, Captain. 

CAPT. WES MOORE (RET.), AFGHANISTAN WAR VETERAN:  Thank you very much. 

I appreciate it.

MATTHEWS:  And I want to—I mean it, of course. 

And I want to ask you.  You‘re a troop in the field.  You‘re a parent. 

You face Islamic people every day of your life, 24/7.  They‘re around you.  They can get to you if they have a religious feeling about this kind of sacrilege.  That‘s what it is by any religious standard.  What do you think is going to happen?

MOORE:  Well, I agree with General Petraeus is that I think, not only is the decision to do this misguided, but also it really does put our troops and also the larger mission in real danger. 

I think we have been very clear, not just in word, but also in deed, that this is not a war against Islam.  This is a war against extremist elements, such as al Qaeda and such as other groups like (INAUDIBLE) as well and the Taliban.  But these actions are not at all helpful in trying to make that argument that this is not a war against Islam, and I think should really be reconsidered. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you—and I want to get to David Corn—what happened when there was the talk during the Abu Ghraib horror that apparently was really used against over there?  Tell us more about that hell, the pictures from Abu Ghraib where they showed American service men and women really abusing the bodies and the dignity of Islamic prisoners.

The thing about flushing the Koran down the toilet, just the rumor of that, what was that about?  What happened then?

Wes?

MOORE:  I‘m sorry. 

No, so the—what ended up happening for—really for that—and not only did we see that with Abu Ghraib, but also what happened with the Koran burning back in 2005, is, the extremists, we knew that you could not really bring them back along.  But really who that targeted and who that really hurt was our ability to try to bring in moderates. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MOORE:  And you saw a lot of the extremist groups were then using that as ammunition, using this as fodder.

MATTHEWS:  To recruit. 

MOORE:  Exactly, to recruit. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MOORE:  So, I know, for example, when I was on the ground in Afghanistan during the time of the Danish cartoons, the 12 cartoons that went off, where—you know, talking about what has happened with Islam and with the Prophet Mohammed. 

And it really led to some very dangerous and—you know, very dangerous situation for our soldiers who were on the ground at that time. 

MATTHEWS:  It always seems to make like you‘re a 14-year-old kid and you hear about this. 

They‘re burning the Koran in the country.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re going to school, and: “What, they burned my bible?  They burned my religion?” 

You‘re sitting in a cafe in Cairo, a moderate kid who wants to go to Michigan State and studying engineering, and you go, “Wait a minute.  They‘re burning my—my Koran over there?  Why doesn‘t the president stop this?”

CORN:  Well, people think that the president does have the power to

sometimes stop this.  And if it happens, it reflects not just on the idiot

pastor down in Florida, but on the U.S. government at large.  In a lot of -

in a lot of places, a lot of parts of the world, you couldn‘t do this without government backing.  The government would have the power to shut it down.

           

MATTHEWS:  Dictatorship, yes.

CORN:  The people view it through that lens.  Already, you have people in Afghan, young men in Afghan, throwing rocks—demonstrating against this and throwing rocks at American troops convoys.  It‘s not a big threat at the moment but it could get even bigger.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s almost reasonable compared to what might be coming.

Here‘s the (INAUDIBLE) pastor, this isn‘t a new story for us.  On August 26th, I had Pastor Jones on, Terry Jones on.  And I thought it was a fair show.  And I tried to get him to at least admit there might be somebody out there that might talk him out of this.  I never thought someone as distinguished as General Petraeus would do it.

But here‘s what he said then.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Do you like or respect anyone, sir?

TERRY JONES, PASTOR:  I guess so.  I guess our—

MATTHEWS:  Enough to listen to them?

JONES: -- ex-president, President Bush.

MATTHEWS:  President George W. Bush.  If George W. Bush, the former president, were to call you up or visit with you and say, “I think this is going to cause trouble in the Arab and Islamic world, I will not—I really think you shouldn‘t burn Qurans in public on that day, it‘s their holy book,” would you not do it?

JONES:  That would not change our plans.  No.

MATTHEWS:  So, again, even if George W. Bush were to call you up, Pastor Jones, and urge you not to commit this action which will be televised worldwide and could cause trouble and even death, you wouldn‘t—you would continue ahead with your plan to do this?

JONES:  We are going to continue ahead.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this “we” is pretty scary.  Why didn‘t he just say I?  Who is this we?  Is it the politburo?  Who is he got behind him that makes this decision or this ego?

CORN:  Well, he has—he has a very right-wing fundamental church that believes that if you support abortion, that if you support homosexual rights to practice—

MATTHEWS:  A lot of people believe this -- 

CORN:  No, but that you‘re going to hell and that more importantly, it‘s their job to stop all such activity.  So, they really believe Islam is the devil‘s religion.  They believe that literally it‘s the religion of the devil and they have to oppose it.

Now, interesting that you brought up George W. Bush, because I take this man at his word that nothing will, you know, dissuade him from this. 

But what might help is if you had figures on the right like George W. Bush

like Newt Gingrich, who‘s making up a big storm—

           

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How about Franklin Graham?

CORN:  And Franklin Graham.  If they came out and all condemned this, it might send somewhat a countervailing message.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask, Captain Wes Moore, we only have a few minutes here.  But I think maybe you want to make an appeal.  I don‘t know, as a fighting guy, a warrior, you know, we don‘t need any more enemies, we got enemies in the world.  Why would you want to recruit enemies like this will probably do?  I think.

MOORE:  Well, I agree.  And quite honestly, the largest challenge is, and I think David touched on it, it‘s a really important point, it‘s also is a point the general called or made, is that for a lot of people, particularly the thousands that are currently around the world now protesting this exact issue, they don‘t understand this idea of a First Amendment right, to speak.  They don‘t understand that the president can‘t just tell him not to do this, and then it can‘t be done.

So, they think by seeing these actions and when these images are transported all over the world that this is how the country feels.  We have to be clear that when we have men and women in harm‘s way and men and women who are out there fighting for us every single day, that we need to do everything in our power to support them.  And this is not at all helpful.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think of the president, Wes, would you think that the president would have publicly condemned this?  The State Department, by the way, has put out their word, P.J. Crowley, the spokesman, has basically said it‘s un-American what this pastor is thinking of doing and it‘s religious radicalism.  Does that help to the Muslim world or not, only marginally?

MOORE:  I think only marginally.  Quite honestly, I don‘t think the president should get involved and condemn this, because I think, you know, what General Petraeus said is right.  I think the president will just go what General Petraeus said and I‘m just hoping and praying that Pastor Jones take that seriously and take into consideration.

MATTHEWS:  We couldn‘t have a better guest on than you, sir.  Thank you, Captain Wes Moore, who‘s been out there and knows what the soldiers are facing.

Thank you, David Corn, as always.

Up next, tracking the Tea Party.  This is going to be a real threat for people here, who want to know what really going on in the Mall when Glenn Beck called his troops together.  This is real interviews coming up with actual people there who weren‘t under the control of the leader who had to say what they had to say.  If you really want to know what people thought, some of them at least, catch this—stick with us after the commercial and hear what they have to say.  Great stuff coming up here.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll have to watch his lead in that Florida Senate race evaporates.  Charlie Crist is up with his first television ad in the general election.  He wants it to be about the man in the middle.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  How do we get results for Florida?  By putting aside our differences and putting people ahead of politics.  Washington needs to stop all the finger-pointing and focus on our common goals of fixing the economy, creating jobs, because at the end of the day, there‘s only one party I work for.

I‘m Charlie Crist, an independent and I approve in message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Crist trails Republican Marco Rubio in that Florida Senate race with Democrat Kendrick Meek a distant third.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Way to get this.

Back to HARDBALL.

The NAACP has teamed up with three liberal media groups to form a Web site, teapartytracker.org.  And I love it.  The site which they say will monitor racism and other forms of extremism within the Tea Party Movement.  Well, they‘re not exactly, completely objective.

Joining me right now is Ari Rabin-Havt of “Media Matters,” which is one of the partners on this project.  And he‘s going to be our candid camera reviewer.

Here‘s one of the video he took up at “Tea Party Tracker” site right now.  It‘s a compilation of interviewers with the audience at that great Glenn Beck rally—I‘m sorry, not great, infamous, if you will, rally held at the nation‘s capital on the Mall.

           

Let‘s take a listen to these amazing interviews.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ARI RABIN-HAVT, MEDIA MATTERS:  Do you know Glenn Beck said Barack Obama was a racist?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never heard him say he was a racist.

RABIN-HAVT:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never heard Glenn say that.

RABIN-HAVT:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never heard him actually be disrespectful to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Glenn Beck is not going to say that.  You‘re just

you‘re just turning words around.  I know what you‘re at.

           

RABIN-HAVT:  You didn‘t hear when Glenn Beck referred to Obama as a racist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I didn‘t.  We‘ll tell you, we did find it very surprising today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If I heard that, I believe it, because he is a bit of a racist and a bit of an elitist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I agree with the birther people that I don‘t think he‘s even legal citizen.

RABIN-HAVT:  And do you think he‘s a Christian?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think he‘s Muslim at heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They want to us take a slap in the face by putting a mosque up there near Ground Zero.  Well, how many mosques are in New York right now?  There‘s a bunch of them.  Why do they need another one?  Just to slap us in the face?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I learned all I needed to know about Islam on 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  You saw them some Tea Partiers denying that Glenn Beck ever called the president a racist.  Here‘s the evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST:  This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.  I don‘t know what it is.  This guy is I believe a racist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, what is it about cognitive dissonance, we use to call it, when you don‘t hear something because you don‘t want to hear it, because it doesn‘t fit.  Are those people B.S.-ing, saying they don‘t know he talks like that?

RABIN-HAVT:  I mean, they clearly don‘t know—don‘t watch Glenn Beck if they are saying that, because a week before, he called Barack Obama racist.  He said Barack Obama‘s entire agenda was based on one word: reparations.  How can you claim that someone‘s entire agenda is based on reparations, a word that I think Barack Obama has ever uttered and not be a racist?

MATTHEWS:  What are you guys going to try to do now?  I‘m sure you got into the—what has been the reaction to your showing these tapes online of people who actually spoke freely at that Glenn Beck, not from the podium, the official line, but the unofficial line?

RABIN-HAVT:  I mean, I think there‘s been a lot of exposure, I think “Tea Party Tracker” is the latest.  We put tons of these videos up on our Web site at mediamatters.org over the—over the course of this.

I think, you know, this is just a compounding of evidence.  There‘s been signs at rallies that I remember—I was out in “Showdown in Searchlight” and I spoke to a couple who had a sign that described Barack Obama as a—politely put—a tribal leader.  You know, those signs became so common, I think, teapartytracker.org is just one place that documents it all.

MATTHEWS:  What about the—did they try when they went into this rally at the capital—we‘re watching right there on the screen—did they go around and did—could you tell where they made an effort to really police it and keep those Nazi signs that show up all the time at Tea Party rallies out of camera range but weren‘t able to keep people‘s brains out of camera range?

RABIN-HAVT:  Well, for weeks leading up to the rally, Glenn Beck said don‘t bring signs, bring your children, don‘t bring signs, don‘t bring signs, because he was scared of what those signs would be, and if Glenn Beck prove one thing, is that people listen to him.  But you go back to the health care rallies on Capitol Hill when that bill was passing—those signs were some of the most offensive things I‘ve ever seen, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You know what struck me in the series of interviews.  And, of course, I‘d like to see a lot more.  I could watch hours of this stuff because it does tell me the truth.  I was struck by their almost moony-like willingness to cover for him because, in other words, they weren‘t denying what they thought wasn‘t true.  They are denying what might hurt him.  That‘s different.

They are like in his regiments.  They‘re like supporting him blindly.  You know, the old rule is: I don‘t need you when I‘m wrong—I mean, when I‘m right.  I need you when I‘m wrong.

I mean, he had obviously said this.  They denied it because they wanted to cover for him, not because they didn‘t think he said it.

RABIN-HAVT:  I mean, Glenn Beck is an incredibly powerful voice.  He brings out 500,000 people or 78,000 people or whatever he wants to say or whatever the truth is, onto the Mall, and these people are devoted followers and will do whatever he says.  And—

MATTHEWS:  Where are you going next?  I don‘t want to (INAUDIBLE) your at.  But where are you going next?

RABIN-HAVT:  I think we‘re going to keep exposing this.  I think, when the American people see what at the true heart of this movement, they‘re going to reject it.

MATTHEWS:  Is it the belief of, well, “Media Matters”—you‘re “Media Matters,” is your belief having observe this that there is a racial element to the Tea Partiers, just you‘re able to isolate that with some people?

RABIN-HAVT:  There‘s no question.  I mean, remember back right after the NAACP nearly passed a resolution asking the Tea Party to condemn racism and what‘s the reaction of the resolution saying, condemn racism is to attack the Tea Party as racist.  And as the Tea Party was scurrying around, to try to prove themselves not racist, Mark Williams, the head of one of the Tea Party groups, comes and makes racist statements and get fired for being racist.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  One of them, by the way, of the checks they do to find out if a person is a racist, they run the names of organizations past them.  And they mention the NAACP and if a person says they don‘t like the NAACP, that‘s a trigger.

RABIN-HAVT:  And these guys, they hate the NAACP—and it‘s pretty sad because the NAACP is such an important organization.

MATTHEWS:  Well, keep working at it.  Ari—

RABIN-HAVT:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- Rabin-Havt, thanks for joining us.

We‘ll right back.  I‘ve got some thoughts, by the way, about how this administration can go positive for themselves, bolster up for this election and be much stronger on Election Day and on the next Election Day in 2012 if they put their house together bolstered up.  We need a shakeup.  We need some heavyweights to come in.  I‘ve said it before, I want to say it more lucidly when we get back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a need—the need for an Obama shakeup.

I said this on Friday.  He needs to bring in Hillary Clinton as defense chief to give his Defense Department a clear Democratic leader, bolsters Middle East peace deal which could make this administration, also strengthen—let‘s admit it—the Obama/Clinton coalition which is the very heart of this administration.  I‘ve said this before.

Now, the tough part.  He needs a chief operating officer.  He‘s not an executive, President Obama, of experience.  He‘s probably brilliant.  He‘s amazing at values.  He‘s got solid vision what.

What he needs is a skilled, confident, follow-up man or woman, a person who makes things work, no ifs, ands or buts.  He needs a Democratic James A. Baker III—an Obama version of that guy who keep Ronald Reagan on even-keel and made things run well—even elegantly—a guy who knew just how to deal with the opposition House of Representatives, which is a very good chance that Obama is going to have to face.

It‘s not a time to promote deputies.  It‘s time to bring in proven executives, big shots.  You can put Colin Powell back at state.  This time, he‘ll be able to follow his instincts and values under a like-minded president.

People will say that Mike Bloomberg or Colin Powell won‘t take these jobs.  That‘s what they said about Lyndon Johnson when Jack Kennedy offered him the vice presidency.  That‘s what they said about Alan Alda when Jimmy Smits offered him secretary of state on “West Wing,” just kidding.

But there comes a time when the country needs to do the right thing.  Nobody is going to tell me that Mike Bloomberg wants the party of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck to take over this country.

Mr. President, you started to push for infrastructure—roads, bridges, railways.  Now, it‘s time to build your own political infrastructure.  It‘s time to go for strength.  You‘ve worked at building a government in Baghdad and Kabul, how about building a world class one here in Washington?

Mr. President, time for greatness.

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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