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updated 9/17/2010 11:32:07 AM ET 2010-09-17T15:32:07

Guests: Mark Halperin, Charlie Cook, Julia Boorstin, Josh Marshall, Errol Louis, Anne Kornblut, Nate Silver, Dennis Hastert

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  It‘s tea time.  So who‘s the maddest hatter of them all?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews up in New York. 

Leading off tonight: Boiling hot tea.  The fire on the right that consumed Mike Castle and threatens Democrats in the fall is now beginning to burn Republican bridges.  In the last two days, Mike Castle blamed his loss on lies by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.  Karl Rove dismissed Christine O‘Donnell as a loser.  Sarah Palin and Rush went after Rove.  The Tea Party has a seat at the Republican table, but the knives are out.

And make no mistake, if this new band of Republicans grabs control of Congress, they‘ll force another government shutdown and probe the Obama White House to death.  That‘s their goal.  They‘ve said it, launch a relentless campaign to kill government and take down this president.  And it‘s certainly going to happen if Democratic voters stay home this November.

But what if Democrats close the enthusiasm gap between now and then?  There are two polls out there today that actually have some upbeat news for Democrats, if they can get their people to the voting booths.

And remember that venom by Newt Gingrich this week about President Obama having a “Kenyan anti-colonial” worldview?  I want to know what the moderate Republicans are saying.  When are they going to say, Enough of this race-baiting nonsense?  They haven‘t said it yet.  We‘ll ask one tonight whether he‘s willing to defend Newt‘s tribal talk—tribal talk—or stifle it.

And Christine O‘Donnell gets some advice on handling the media from Sarah Palin.  That‘s, of course, in the “Sideshow” tonight.

Let‘s start with the fire on the right.  “Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin is a senior MSNBC political analyst.  And “Time” magazine cover this week, by the way, is “It‘s Tea Party Time.”  And Josh Marshall of the much—well, highly distinguished Talking Points Memo, joins us.  Josh, thank you for joining us.  You‘re sitting right here.  Don‘t pretend I‘m not here.

Anyway, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin played out the Republican Party split over Christine O‘Donnell.  Let‘s see it.  It‘s all come to a head so soon.  It‘s only September.  Look at the sparks fly.  It started with Rove‘s skepticism, you might call it, towards the victory by Christine O‘Donnell Tuesday night.  Let‘s listen to this strange fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FOX CONTRIBUTOR:  Some of these good ole‘ boys—and I have nothing against Karl Rove personally.  You know, he‘s the expert.  But Bill, some of these folks, they are saying that people like Christine O‘Donnell and others, Tea Party Americans, can‘t win because they don‘t want them to win.

KARL ROVE, FOX CONTRIBUTOR:  There are just a lot of nutty things she‘s been saying that simply don‘t add up.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Everybody I know just—that saw this was just—they were perplexed.  They couldn‘t (INAUDIBLE) what‘s going on?  Why is he so mad at a Republican?

ROVE:  I endorsed her the other night.  I said, I‘m for the Republican in each and every case.  I mean, I was one of the first to do it.  And look, I‘m also helping her.  I‘ve gotten—so many people have written me an e-mail saying, I‘m irritated with you saying what you said the other night.  I‘m giving her a campaign contribution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Mark Halperin, that is the fastest I‘ve seen a guy stuffed at the basket there.  Karl Rove, the architect of the erstwhile not well built (ph) Bush machine, is now admitting he was wrong within what, 24 hours?  He‘s been croaked here.  What‘s going on here?  Can‘t Karl Rove speak anymore, or in the Republican Party, must you obey the Tea Party now?

MARK HALPERIN, “TIME,” MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, let‘s try to break down, though, what his objection and some other—a lot of other prominent Republicans were worried about if she became the nominee.  They don‘t—they‘re not saying her views are too extreme.  Karl made it clear in that first interview he thinks her views are fine.  They‘re worried about two things.  They‘re worried about the personal baggage she has and what they believe the character problem will make her unelectable.  They don‘t want, as a matter of realpolitik, to lose the seat.

I think the problem is a more cultural one.  There are people in the Tea Party and in the conservative movement whose attitude is, If someone is against the establishment, we‘re for them.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HALPERIN:  And if anybody criticizes them, they‘re criticizing the heart and soul of the movement.  That is a cultural and kind of psychological problem that I think Karl misplayed, and it‘s going to be a challenge for the Republican Party I don‘t think between now and the mid-terms, but certainly beyond, in governing and then looking towards the presidential.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s the cultural problem of Karl Rove?  Let‘s continue the psychobabble on both sides.  Why is an establishment figure like Karl Rove, who makes money doing this, talking about politics—why is he so angry at her for winning?  She wins the nomination.  At that moment forward, he should have been supportive of her.  What did anybody gain from her—him dumping on her after she won?  That‘s what I don‘t get.

HALPERIN:  It was a mistake.  But I think—and Karl basically said this in a subsequent interview—Karl‘s an analyst now for Fox News.  He was wearing his hat—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HALPERIN:  -- that‘s about zeros and ones.  Are we going to win the seat or not?  And I think his point was, We just not—we just failed to nominate someone who would definitely win the seat.  Democrats were going to give up on that race.  Now we‘ve nominated someone who almost definitely, from Karl‘s point of view, will lose the seat.  And I think he was being an analyst—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HALPERIN:  -- rather than doing what he should have done, which is to say, She won, isn‘t it great, a new young voice in the party, even if that doesn‘t mean he thought she could win.

MATTHEWS:  You know, in my favorite movie, Josh Marshall, “Lawrence of

Arabia,” the Arabs win—and we‘re all rooting for them in this, although

(INAUDIBLE) terrorists today, of course—beating the Turks.  They all get

to Damascus.  And the minute they get to Damascus, they start fighting each

other with

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, that‘s what the—they haven‘t won yet.  It‘s not November yet and they‘re already fighting with each other.

MARSHALL:  Well, you know, the Republicans are falling apart to victory.  You know, it‘s a funny kind of thing.  I think the thing is—I actually disagree with Mark.  If you look at that first interview that Rove did, there was more than just analyst there.  It wasn‘t just him saying—

MATTHEWS:  Why‘s he angry?

MARSHALL:  He‘s angry because he‘s a professional.  He does this for a living.  He likes winning elections.  And he sees someone like her, frankly, as an amateur.  If you look at that first interview, there was something denigrating in the voice—

MATTHEWS:  By the way, that‘s what the Tea Party people love to hate -

-

MARSHALL:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  -- the big shots telling them they‘re amateurs, even though they‘re voters.

MARSHALL:  Absolutely.  I think if you look at what he said, he talked about what he called her character issues, you know, things she—nutty things that she‘d said.  I think someone like Rove—he doesn‘t want a Republican like that, even if there were no character issues, doesn‘t want a Republican like that running in Delaware because he wants to win elections.

MATTHEWS:  So she‘s fair game.

MARSHALL:  Yes.  Until he—

MATTHEWS:  To use an old phrase.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Congressman Mike Castle.  Let him speak for himself.  Here‘s the guy that lost narrowly the other night to O‘Donnell.  He lays blame for his loss to radio.  Here he is, nailing who he thinks are the bad guys.  I love this fight!  It‘s a circular firing squad on the right.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CASTLE ®, DELAWARE:  I think the misrepresentations, the lies of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh on the air were another very significant part of all of this.  I think some of the misrepresentations in my opponent‘s race were part of it, as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So that‘s what it takes for a Republican to tell the truth about the radio boys.  Just think about it—and television boys.  Just think about it, Mark.  You don‘t say a word against these guys with the microphone until you lose.

HALPERIN:  Well, Chris, who are the two other people in the party who‘ve told the truth along the lines of Mike Castle?  Senator Bennett, who lost his race in Utah and talked about the dangers of the Tea Party to the Republican Party, and then Congressman Inglis in South Carolina.  Both of them incumbents, lost their nomination fights.  And they‘ve spoken out in a way different than everybody else.

The Republican Party is lucky.  What‘s animating the Tea Party, talking about the economy and spending in Washington, is the exact issue that is the winning issue for the mainstream party, the establishment party.  As long as they can be talking about that, then they‘re fine.  That‘s why what Karl did and what other Republicans did in criticizing O‘Donnell was a huge mistake.  It created all this dialogue about a fight within the Republican Party, rather than the president‘s record on the economy.

MATTHEWS:  You know, this looks like a fight—and tell me if I‘m wrong.  You know your stuff, Josh.  You do.  I respect you a lot.  If you look forward now and just project this writ large, to use a fancy expression, Mike Castle versus Christine O‘Donnell, OK?  Mitt Romney versus Sarah Palin.  How are the Tea Partiers going to say, Oh, well, this is really important, the presidency?  I wouldn‘t want one of us being president?  At what point are the big shots going to say, You guys aren‘t clean enough or sophisticated enough to be the leaders.  We‘ll take your votes—

MARSHALL:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- but none of you is going to get to be president.  At what point does that clash occur?

MARSHALL:  I think what‘s going to happen is you‘re going to see this fight take place in 2011.  And if 2011 goes something like 1995 went—

MATTHEWS:  You mean the run-up.

MARSHALL:  -- when the radicals, yes, kind of really discredited themselves with government shutdowns and all this kind of stuff—

MATTHEWS:  I see.

MARSHALL:  -- when you get to 2012 --

MATTHEWS:  But doesn‘t Palin have—

MARSHALL:  -- it makes a difference.

MATTHEWS:  -- to decide whether to run before then?

MARSHALL:  Oh, absolutely.  I‘m saying who‘s actually going to (INAUDIBLE) --

MATTHEWS:  OK—

MARSHALL:  -- who‘s actually going to make it?

MATTHEWS:  Mark, when‘s this going to happen?  When are we going to see the Castle versus O‘Donnell race writ large nationally between Palin and—because it looks to me like the Tea Parties have already written off Mitt Romney.  He‘s the original health care guy.  He was the stalking horse for Obama.  They‘re already nailing the guy.  They‘re getting the help, by the way, of—who‘s going after—oh, Pawlenty‘s already going after him, already saying, You‘re one of the RINOs.

HALPERIN:  Well, look, Chris, there‘s—there‘s a cleavage (ph) between the seven people right now who I think can be the Republican nominee.  You‘ve got three people who are employees of FOX, Palin—and Gingrich and Huckabee.  And then you‘ve got four governors or former governors, Pawlenty, Romney, Palin, Daniels of Indiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi.  The four establishment figures all are going to have to, starting now, figure out how they deal with the Tea Party movement.  And they‘re going to have to approach this race in a way that gathers the energy of the Tea Party movement the way they need it, but doesn‘t alienate the center.

It‘s very analogous, though, Chris—before we get all apocalyptic about it—to what Republicans had to do in, say, 1996 with Bob Dole and the Christian Coalition and the evangelical movement.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that worked out well, didn‘t it!

(LAUGHTER)

HALPERIN:  Well, but Dole—no, but Dole got the support of Ralph Reed—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he got 41 percent, too, in the general.

HALPERIN:  Because he didn‘t do a good job of knitting it together. 

But his problem—

MATTHEWS:  Because he didn‘t believe a word of the right-wing crap.  He thought this whole supply-side stuff was a joke.  He told endless jokes about it before he got the nomination.  Then he had to pretend he believed it.  And nobody believed that he believed it.

HALPERIN:  That‘s why I believe the Republican—

(CROSSTALK)

MARSHALL:  -- Gingrich had already discredited himself, by that point, to a great degree.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Do you think that Romney‘s a credible Tea Party leader?

HALPERIN:  I think that‘s a big challenge for all of them.  And he

culturally and I think in terms of performance—it‘s a real challenge for

him.  But he was the first out of the gate of the seven people I named, as

far as I know, to endorse O‘Donnell.  And I think you‘re going to see him -

because he has been very nimble this year, more nimble than people give him credit for in figuring out the right ways to try to build those bridges

But you‘re not going to beat Barack Obama if you‘re a Tea Party candidate.  And in fact, when I talk to people around the president, the thing that gives them the most optimism about the long-term political future of the president is they believe that it is inevitable that the Tea Party will either nominate one of their own as the candidate to run against Obama in 2012 or that the person who wins will be so beholden to the Tea Party that they‘ll lose 40 states.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t the president begin an attack through his people on Sarah Palin with the idea of boosting her up to the nomination?  Because they‘re afraid that, in the end, she can beat him?

MARSHALL:  Good question.

MATTHEWS:  Because that‘s what you do.  That‘s what Johnson did to Nixon.

MARSHALL:  Yes.  Yes.  No—

MATTHEWS:  Build them up.

MARSHALL:  Well, look at how well that worked out.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, it didn‘t work out too well.  Johnson had to leave and Nixon won.

MARSHALL:  Be careful what you wish for.

MATTHEWS:  I love talking to people that know their history.  This is really interesting tonight.  So do we agree that the fight has begun between the regular Republican Party and the zoo stream (ph), if you will, as they would see it?  Your thoughts, Mark?   Because that‘s the way they look at them.

HALPERIN:  It has begun—

MATTHEWS:  They look at them as the slow kids in the class.  That‘s their view of them.

HALPERIN:  There is a—there is a cultural and psychological divide that I think they will not bridge perfectly but they will bridge enough to do smashingly well in the mid-terms.  The peril for them is if they don‘t have leaders who can negotiate not just for 2012 but for having govern (ph) as part of a co-equal branch where they‘ll be in a majority—that is a real challenge.  And right now, all they do, for the most part, until this O‘Donnell thing, is kow-tow to the Tea Party, and that is not a recipe for long-term success.

MATTHEWS:  Can they get the support of people they look down on?  Mike Castle looks down on Christine O‘Donnell.  There‘s no doubt about it.

MARSHALL:  You know, what‘s really—what‘s the most telling thing for me is the way that they have rolled big—not just establishment but people who are the conservatives.  It‘s not just the Mike Castles.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

MARSHALL:  It‘s the—you know, it‘s the Karl Roves.

MATTHEWS:  They go after her for not having a college degree.  You know, every time we look at a poll, you can tell who‘s going to win.  The people without college degrees tend to win.  Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin.  Thank you, Josh Marshall.

Up next: if the new Republicans gain control of Congress, will they force another government shutdown?  By the way, how wild will it get if the Tea Partiers come in and take over the United States government, in effect, because they could if they win enough seats this November?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Two new polls out today.  Down in Arkansas, Republican U.S.  Senate candidate John Boozman is holding a—catch this -- 17-point lead over incumbent senator Blanche Lincoln, 51-34.  In Ohio, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Republican challenger John Kasich with a 54 to 37 percent lead over the incumbent governor, Ted Strickland.  What a race!  The poll shows much of Strickland‘s (SIC) lead is due to overwhelming support among independents.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  If the Tea Party candidates help Republicans take control of Congress this November, their goal is to force another government shutdown, some say, and push for investigation after investigation to take down President Obama.

Errol Louis is with “The New York Daily News” and Anne Kornblut is with “The Washington Post.”

Errol, this is serious business.  The people heading for Congress right now, some of them, on the fringe, you might argue, are intending to get in there and not just vote for lower spending or lower taxes or maybe even to challenge some of the agenda of the president, they want to croak it.

ERROL LOUIS, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  They want to take down—take down the president, beginning with his health care plan, kill it in its crib.

LOUIS:  The thing we can all—or need to hope for, I think, regardless of your ideology, is that some adult supervision will prevail and that some of the more radical proposals, like opening up the 14th Amendment and tinkering around with it or trying to undo health care and going after Social Security aren‘t really going to happen.

MATTHEWS:  What makes you think that would happen?  You call them the adults, but aren‘t the adults cheering on the radicals?

LOUIS:  I don‘t think so.  The Republican Senatorial Committee has endorsed eight losing candidates.  The Tea Party has been cleaning their clocks.  They‘re a little bit baffled.  They‘re trying to—

MATTHEWS:  But now they have a new board of directors.  The ones running them now are the guys they tried to beat.

LOUIS:  Hostile takeover.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s Republican congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia gleefully talking about a government shutdown.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND ®, GEORGIA:  If the government shuts down, we want you with us.  What has happened in this country, we have put Band-Aids on some things that need to be cleaned out.

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) pain for us to do the things that we got to do to right the ship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Anne Kornblut, it seems that a lot of people don‘t remember how messy it got back under Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, when the government did shut down.  I guess they‘re not worried about the libraries being closed—

ANNE KORNBLUT, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  -- or their museums.  I guess that‘s not too much of a threat to some of these people.

KORNBLUT:  Well, it seems like a government shutdown is the kind of thing that sounds pretty good on the campaign trail, especially when Democrats control everything, to go in, to embrace the party of no, to say they‘re going to stop it, they‘re going to reverse the Obama era.  I mean, that‘s really, obviously, what this is about.  But you‘re right.  I think there is a little bit of amnesia.

It was interesting to see that Dick Morris was among the people saying that a government shutdown might be something that would be in the offing if Republicans took over because that didn‘t actually work so well for Republicans back in the ‘90s.  It worked in the short term.  It seemed—they seemed to be blocking Clinton.  But in the end, they lost.

So I think that it would be probably different if they did take over.  I think once you‘re in office, there‘s a different imperative to actually do something.  And I think even it would be—if it were a short-term gain for Republicans, if they did, for example, take over the House and were able to shut down the government—and that‘s not to say they would even do so, given that Boehner has said he—that‘s not on his agenda.  But if that did happen, I think that would lay some tricky groundwork for whoever the presidential candidate would be in 2012, to say, Well, OK, fine, you‘re in charge of the House.  You shut down the government.  What would do you as president?

MATTHEWS:  Speaking of groundwork, why was it that Dick Morris had to quit working for Bill Clinton?  What was that, something to do with groundwork, toes?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Republican Senate candidate—

KORNBLUT:  Let‘s not go there!

MATTHEWS:  -- Joe Miller—I won‘t ask you that.  Joe Miller of Alaska says he supports a government shutdown.  Now, he‘s the new kid on the block.  He beat Murkowski.  Let‘s listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But out of the gate, Joe, what do you start with, health care?

JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE:  Oh, absolutely, de-fund it.  I mean, kill would be perfect, but obviously, that‘d get vetoed.  So de-fund everything.  Get rid of the socialist aspects of government not just in health care but the other entitlement areas that are driving us into insolvency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Of course, you‘re going to have—you‘re going to have a president who is going to veto anything, if there‘s a Republican Congress, that the Republican Congress tries to enact.

MILLER:  Well, you got to fund it, and the Congress has to have an affirmative vote to do it.  So that‘s a good start point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So starve them—starve them of the funds, starve the beast, so to speak.

MILLER:  Absolutely.  And have the courage to shut down the government if we have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Errol, this is a sophisticated guy.  I think he‘s Yale Law.  He knows what he‘s doing.  He—he speaks like a guy who knows what he‘s doing.  This is not some yahoo saying, gee whiz, I would like to stop the government, I would like to get rid of health care.

He has got a plan. 

LOUIS:  Well, even smart people can overplay their hands, like FDR did. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But he has an agenda, an agenda here of a smart guy coming in, probably going to win the general, from Alaska.  His goal and his promise to his people back to Alaska, I‘m going to go in there and health care in its crib. 

LOUIS:  And, on paper, it all makes sense, and it probably tests well in the polls.  But what he would soon find out, if he actually tried something like that, is that you have got these independents, they‘re about 40 percent of vote.  They‘re swinging back and forth like a pendulum. 

They don‘t trust either of the parties.  They‘re willing to change and change up at a moment‘s notice.  They have abandoned Obama, at least temporarily.  What they would find if they actually tried some of that stuff is they would be swinging the other way in a minute. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re being skeptical. 

Anne Kornblut, you cover the Congress down there.  Let me ask you this about Darrell Issa.  Issa is a guy who is ranking Republican on the Reform Committee. 

He is exactly where he has to be if he‘s new chair of that committee to go after what‘s—here he is with Savannah Guthrie, our colleague, asking Congressman Issa what he will do if he gets subpoena power, which is the power to call before that committee anybody he wants, dig into anything he wants to dig into to bring down this administration.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Some people said you‘re the man the White House most fears.  Is that fair?  And what do they have to fear? 

REP. DARRELL ISSA ®, CALIFORNIA:  Well, every administration, once they become the administration, become somewhat imperial, and not just on behalf of, you know, people working in the White House.  But it spreads into all the Cabinet positions. 

Suddenly, every problem they inherited, they want to blame their predecessor, but they don‘t want you looking at whether their change is going to work, whether, if you will, a change you can believe in. 

And that‘s part of the problem of this president, is, he promised change.  He promised transparency.  Now he has got Cabinet officers saying, you know, please, I don‘t want to respond to this.  Let me just handle it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a long way around.  That wasn‘t the most perfect bite of his commitment.  I have heard him many times say, I‘m going to use the subpoena power and nail these guys on issues whether Joe Sestak was promised a job if he didn‘t run for the Senate.  Things around the edges of the law there that might be worthy of an investigation, he‘s going for the kill. 

KORNBLUT:  Or the BP oil spill. 

And if they do take over, you can envision a really long list of things that they would want to investigate or have oversight on.  But, you know, if you took those exact words that you just played of his and you flipped it to three years ago and it were Democrats saying that they were going to do that for—over Republicans, to have oversight—sorry—rather, four years ago—to have oversight over Republicans, there were a lot of Democrats that were really hungry for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

KORNBLUT:  And I think that‘s one of the reasons you see voters saying, you know what?  Checks and balances.  There are a lot of Democrats in control right now. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

KORNBLUT:  We want oversight. 

And so I think that, although there will be some Democrats who will fear what kind of wrath he might unleash if he were able to call those kinds of investigations, have subpoena power, I think that, for independents and Republicans, that might actually be a welcome change. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think you can discriminate between the fire brigade and the fire here.  Some people believe in using government to get things done.  Some would like to jam up the works—

LOUIS:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  -- by endless litigation, endless investigations, like the Republican Party that came in after World War II.  They caught one real live one.  They caught Alger Hiss.  But they were out there holding a probe every day on somebody. 

LOUIS:  That‘s right.  And, in the long run, sooner or later, Richard Nixon actually sort of rode that pretty far. 

But, no, I think we‘re going to find out what their real appetite is for this stuff.  You have got a mix of pragmatists and pure ideologues.  And there will be a tussle among them.  But all of this assumes that they‘re actually going to win control of the House.  And we have still got about 47 days.  It‘s not really a done deal yet.

MATTHEWS:  OK, what went wrong last time, Errol?  Let‘s talk about this now.  The Republicans got in back in ‘94.  They came, like barnstormed their way in the door.  They won with a Contract With America, which nobody really read.  But they got in there and they said, we‘re going to do some stuff.  They stopped down the government. 

LOUIS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right. 

And the bitterness that continues to this day was the—the seeds were really planted there.  I mean, this is the same Congress—it ended up being the same Congress that impeached the president.  And many people after losing because they wanted to impeach the president did it during their rump session, I mean, just horrible, horrible behavior. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Errol and Anne, I think we helped the voters see tonight what they‘re choosing between.  Democrats are the progressive party to the centrist party, somewhere in that continuum, depending on what they can do.  And the Republican Party is somewhere between conservative government and what we‘re seeing here, quite radical. 

Up next:  Rush Limbaugh gets it wrong again.  The “Sideshow” is next. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First tonight:  A rush to judgment. 

Down in Florida, federal district court Judge Roger Vinson is presiding over a legal challenge to the health care bill.  Here‘s what El Rushbo had to say about Vinson on his Tuesday program. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW”) 

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Clyde Roger Vinson is an avid hunter.  He‘s an amateur taxidermist.  Do you know what a taxidermist is?  That‘s right. 

For our liberal caller today, this would not be good news.  A taxidermist stuffs dead game. 

After a 2002 hunting trip during which he killed three brown bears, Judge Clyde Roger Vinson had their heads mounted over the door through which defendants have to pass to enter his courtroom. 

At the time, Judge Vinson said the sight of the severed bear heads would instill a fear of God into the accused. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Judge Vincent sounds like a tough, no-nonsense conservative, right? 

Well, guess what?  Judge Vinson isn‘t a taxidermist.  In fact, he hasn‘t killed a bear ever.  As president of the American Camellia Society, he is actually more of a plant or flower guy. 

So, where did Rush get this portrait of a gun-toting, animal-mounting judge?  Well, “The New York Times” reports today that the mix-up apparently came from a hoax on Vinson‘s Wikipedia page that has since been removed.  Rush‘s team insists the research came from “The Pensacola News Journal.” 

Well, the managing editor of that newspaper says such material was never, ever published.  Rush reports.  You decide. 

By the way, that shirt of his.

Next: Sarah Palin‘s campaign 101.  Last night on “The O‘Reilly Factor,” the ex-governor gave Christine O‘Donnell pointers on handling the media.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  Look, Ms. O‘Donnell could be on here tonight, could be presenting herself in front of the nation.  Her peoples don‘t want her to be, because this is a tough forum.     

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  OK.  I grant you that.  No, I grant you that.  She‘s going to have to learn very quickly to dismiss what some of her handlers want. 

O‘REILLY:  Right. 

PALIN:  Remember what happened to me in the V.P.?

O‘REILLY:  Absolutely.

PALIN:  Remember, I used to have—I used to have to sneak in my phone calls to you guys and say, hey, I‘m here?

O‘REILLY:  I remember getting a call from you at like 11:30 on a Sunday night. 

PALIN:  That‘s right. 

O‘REILLY:  I thought it was a prank call.  But it was you. 

Absolutely.  I know. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘REILLY:  I know exactly what you‘re talking about. 

PALIN:  So, she‘s going to have to learn that, yes, very quickly.  She is going to have to dismiss that.  Go with her gut.  Get out there.  Speak to the American people.  Speak through FOX News, and let the independents who are tuning in to you, let them know what it is that she stands for. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

Well, Governor Palin, you‘re welcome any time to come on HARDBALL. 

You know, you will like it.  You betcha.

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

New York gubernatorial candidate nominee Carl Paladino has been sending out mailers like this one, slamming what he calls the stink of corruption in Albany.  Old message, right?  Well, what‘s different about this, it actually smells.  That‘s right.  The mailers have actually been scented with a landfill odor.  How many New Yorker families got those mementos?  About 200,000. 

Catch this.  The smell is supposed to get worse over time.  Carl Paladino has an odd way of endearing himself to voters -- 200,000 New York homes get garbage-scented mail from him, tonight‘s hold-your-nose “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Democrats could do a lot better than expected this November, if they can close the enthusiasm gap.  That‘s a big if. 

That‘s coming up next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks finishing almost flat on some mixed economic reports, a 22-point gain for the Dow, the S&P 500 down a fraction, and the Nasdaq up just a point. 

Investors treading water without any convincing new signs of recovery to kick things into gear.  A vow by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to get tough on Chinese trade and currency reform was met with skepticism on Wall Street. 

And a slight dip in new unemployment claims was offset by a slowdown in Mid-Atlantic manufacturing and a widening of the U.S. trade deficit. 

FedEx shares falling sharply after missing on earnings expectations and announcing 1,700 layoffs.  Meanwhile, two big names in tech delivering earnings just after the closing bell.  Oracle software posting a better-than-expected 38 percent jump in profits.  And BlackBerry maker Research In Motion also topping expectations and raising its quarterly outlook.  Both companies‘ shares are moving higher in after-hours trading. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Two new polls out today give us some new clues about the midterm elections, now just 47 days away. 

For more on the numbers, let‘s bring in NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook, the editor and publisher of “The Cook Report,” and the great Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, which is now part of “The New York Times.” 

Gentlemen, let‘s talk about these numbers, the mood of the country.  The “New York Times”/CBS News poll finds 55 percent say it‘s time for a new person to represent them in the House of Representatives.  Just 34 percent say their member deserves reelection.  That‘s a big number -- 55 percent say dump the guy or woman. 

The Politico‘s Battleground poll finds an even split now in the congressional ballot—I don‘t know if I believe this -- 43 percent for each of the parties, Democrat and Republican. 

But the perception of a Republican wave looks to have taken over -- 45 percent now expect Republicans to have the House majority next year -- 46 percent, another plurality, expect them to grab the Senate. 

Charlie, it looks to me like—well, let me just start with that first poll.  Do you believe that more than half the country is ready to dump its member of Congress? 

CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, “THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT”:   I

think there is certainly an anti-Washington, anti-incumbent, anti-establishment mood out there, no question about it. 

But when you go through and you look to, say, the 435 House races around the country, there‘s not more than two or three Republican incumbents in the whole country that are in any real danger at all.  And two out of three of those are in enemy-territory districts, like New Orleans and Hawaii. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COOK:  If there were an anti—and you look at all these primaries, where you have seen incumbents or establishment figures upset, with the exception of an Alabama Republican gubernatorial runoff, every one of them, they have lost to someone more conservative than they are. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right. 

COOK:  I would argue there‘s an ideological purging that is not so much anti-incumbency in these Republican primaries. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a gutsy statement, and I like it. 

Nate, we like to say anti-incumbent, because it sounds so beautifully nonpartisan. 

NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But, if you look at the evidence here, the shift is to the right. 

SILVER:  Well, part of it, too, is that all the swing seats, the Democrats now occupy because of 2006 and 2008, right?  So, you don‘t have that many good test cases where you had a vulnerable Republican incumbent. 

You know, if Voinovich hadn‘t retired in Ohio, for example, maybe he would be in some trouble.  We don‘t know.  They got out early, right?

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SILVER:  And I think they are helped by having new faces in there. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, I have heard for a while from different experts that if you ask a person who you think is going to win, you‘re really asking them who they‘re going to vote for in a lot of ways.  It‘s a filter question. 

This strong plurality now that says they think the Senate, as well as the House, are going Republican, does that tell that people who normally are going to vote Democrat, even if they‘re independents, are probably going to vote Republican because they know how they‘re going to vote; that‘s why they‘re saying they think it‘s going to go to the Republicans? 

COOK:  Well, I‘m not fond of these handicapping questions, where you ask people, who do you think is going to win?  Most voters, most people out there have real lives and they‘re not trying to compete with Nate or with me or Stu Rothenberg or anybody else. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COOK:  I don‘t know that those questions mean a whole lot. 

But when you ask them, you know, are you—when you look at that right-direction/wrong-track question that you run a lot—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COOK:  -- you know, you find 30 percent right direction, 60 percent wrong track, that‘s a “Danger, Will Robinson, danger, danger” like on the old “Lost in Space” show. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

You sound, Charlie—I‘m reading through your tea leaves tonight and listening to your tone.  You‘re probably more pronounced tonight than you have been before about the direction of this election.  You sound—I think you have a stronger take on it.  What is it? 

COOK:  Chris, I have stuck—you and I have known each other since 1982.  I have stuck my fat rear end out real far on this one. 

(LAUGHTER)

COOK:  And I‘m just not seeing any evidence that I need to climb in off the end of the limb. 

I have just—you know, if you see me backing and filling, I mean, I will do it if I think the election is changing.  Man, I don‘t see it. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought—I agree with you.  And I think Christine O‘Donnell the other night was a sheer, recent given bit of evidence, if you need it, that this country is going right, and it‘s angry, and it‘s going to go righter every week. 

Let‘s take a look here at the tax cut issue.  This is a hot one.  The “New York Times”/CBS poll finds that 53 percent support the president‘s position to deny the tax cut extension to the rich people, basically,  Roughly three out of four, of course, want the tax cut for people who make less than $250,000 a year.  Guess why?  That‘s them. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, the Politico‘s Battleground finds Republicans with a big advantage in taxes, spending, and deficit. 

So, here we have the people say they support the president‘s position, Nate. 

SILVER:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But, generally—and I have always believed this—you say taxes, it makes people think Republican.  You take big spending, they think, oh, I don‘t like those Democrats. 

SILVER:  Well, it‘s an unfamiliar issue for Democrats to try and win votes on, I think. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SILVER:  And it partly speaks to the fact they don‘t have a lot else going for them, really.  Maybe this is the kind of best of a weak lot.  And partly—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You mean pushing for tax fairness or helping out the middle, at the expense of the rich, is probably the best thing they have got to argue for? 

SILVER:  Well, sure.  And I think—they do, because they‘re not willing to run on health care.  For some reason, they don‘t want to talk about financial reform, one of the few things they have done that is still popular.

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t think it‘s a big winner? 

SILVER:  I think it‘s kind of more tactical, right? 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

SILVER:  You might win a couple of seats. 

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, do you think the person who makes—maybe combined income of $100,000, $150,000, the families both work, and the husband and wife both working hard have gotten along in their careers, they‘re making up to, say, $150,000 -- do you think they‘re in the mood to blame the people who make more than $250,000?  Are they really in that sort of Madam Defarge mood of we‘re going to get the rich people?

COOK:  You know, the thing about this country, one of the great things is that most people, the vast majority, are not rich, but, boy, they sure as heck would like to be there and like to be rich and they‘d like it not all taken away from ‘em if they got there.  I‘m not seeing that sentiment out there and it depends on how you word it.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

COOK:  Now, the thing is, if it gets down to a “do you think it‘s worth blowing the budget out by X to do”—I mean, but Democrats, nothing else worked.  They might as well try this because nothing‘s worked in a year and a half.  They might as well try this.

MATTHEWS:  And you sent a person a little form that says, do you want your tax cut extended or not?  They will check yes.

COOK:  Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re not going to sit and worry about the rich or poor or anybody else or what the government‘s spending level is.  They‘re just going to check and say I want my tax cut continued, Nate?

SILVER:  Well, people—there have been studies saying that people think you‘re rich if you make three times more—

MATTHEWS:  Than they make.

SILVER:  -- than they make, right?  So that‘s why $250,000, only people making $80,000 or more, you know?  So these numbers are calibrated very carefully.  When Obama says $250,000 is where we‘re going to set the threshold, but, you know?  But, also you‘ve had people who are rich that donate a lot to campaigns—and maybe in campaigns here in the Northeast where you have a lot of, frankly, wealthy people.  It might not help Democrats quite as much as in the Midwest.

MATTHEWS:  Charlie, who wins if the tax cut doesn‘t go through?  If people were stuck paying higher taxes next year?  Does that help the Democrats or Republicans, if they screw it up in the Congress?

COOK:  Some day in my life, we may see Democrats win a tax argument. 

But I hadn‘t seen it yet.

MATTHEWS:  OK, well said.

Let‘s go to President Obama.  “Politico‘s” Battleground Poll finds 55 percent approve of him personally.  But just 45 percent of the job he‘s doing.

A lot of people say that says he‘s got a reservoir, a reserve of popular feeling toward him, and then he can get his act together by next term, a year and a year and half from now, he can we can win this thing.  Your thoughts with that, Charlie?  In other words, the sentiment hasn‘t turned against him.

COOK:  Well, the thing is, that number is a little different.  Some—we‘ve seen some NBC/”Wall Street Journal” Polls that showed his personal rating and his job approval rating pretty closely—close together.  It used to be a big gulf.  At least in the polling, I‘m seeing not so much.

So, I don‘t know if that wide gap is out there.  But you tell me what the unemployment rate is like in 2012 and what‘s going on in Afghanistan, and I‘ll tell you whether he‘s going to get re-elected or not.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  You don‘t the sentiment doesn‘t matter then?

COOK:  I think fundamentals matter.

MATTHEWS:  Nate, your personal regard?  Because I think personal regard played a big part in his election more than most candidates.  People like him.  They love his upbringing, the way he came up in life, the way he made it, the way he spoke, how he presented himself.  I like the cut of this guy.

SILVER:  Well, especially for unlikely voters, people who don‘t always turn out.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SILVER:  But they‘re not going to turn out this year, necessarily.  I mean, you can make a very good case Democrats will have a comeback at some point before 2012, maybe a big comeback.  But one thing that might necessitate that is having lost a lot of seats this year.  You know, a lot of the argumentation about Boehner and so forth seems almost preemptive toward 2012 when he probably will be—not for sure—majority leader.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That‘s a pretty pathetic strategy, though.  Blame it on the other guy.  If you‘re in charge, you ought to be running the country.

I think the Democrats should run the country if they want to run the country, not blame it on the other side.

Thank you, Nate Silver, one of the bright guys around.

Charlie Cook, as always, one of the bright guys.

Up next: You‘ve heard all the trash talk about President Obama from Gingrich and how he‘s a Kenyan anti-colonial type.  Although, I thought America was anti-colonial.  Have we forgotten?  Any Republicans step forward and say, stop talking like this, this tribal talk, stop it.

That‘s next on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  There‘s a stunning bit of bad news.  The number of people in this country living in poverty has climbed to 14.3 percent of us, reaching the highest level since 1994.  The Census Bureau says that about 43.6 million people or one-in-seven were in poverty last year.  The number of people lacking health insurance rose to over 50 million, due mostly to the loss of employment-provided health insurance during this recession.

HARDBALL, back right away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Republicans are feeling a little giddy out there about their chances to take the House majority this November and make John Boehner the next speaker of the House.

Well, we‘re joined right now with the last Republican speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

God, you‘re skinny, sir.  What have you been doing?

DENNIS HASTERT ®, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I‘ve never been skinny in my life, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  What happened to that big wrestling pool or coach I used to know?

HASTERT:  I‘m getting down to weight.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich.  I‘ve never could have quite figured out your view of this character.  Newt Gingrich is out there talking like he‘s a tribal leader somewhere.  He‘s talking about the president talking like a Kenyan, a third worlder.  He is calling him an anti-colonial.

Quoting, here‘s what he said, “What if Obama is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions?  That‘s the most accurate predictive model”—in other words, if we‘re going to predict the speaker of the House, right as he predict the president now, we should think of him as a Kenyan, what, chief or what?  I mean, what kind of talk is that from an American politician?

HASTERT:  Look, I I‘m going to let it up to Newt to do the philosophical theories on politics.  But, you know, I think when you look at one of the problems with Obama, he just hasn‘t been effective.  He hasn‘t—he needs to focus on jobs.  I think that‘s what the American people are worried about.  And he hasn‘t been able to do that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

HASTERT:  He spent too much money.

MATTHEWS:  Why don‘t Republicans focus on jobs instead of on his tribal nature?  Why are Republicans—if you got a good case about jobs—

HASTERT:  You‘re talking about one Republican, come on.

MATTHEWS:  Newt was your speaker.  You used to obey this guy.  He was your—he was your chief.  If we want to get into African talk here—he was your chief, you know?  And now, you‘re saying you don‘t even know the guy‘s name.

HASTERT:  I also succeeded him.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

Anyway, let me ask you about your party.  I have a theory and I want you to tell me about it.  Back in the ‘60s, I think the Democrats were mad at the Vietnam War, as you know.  And they had to back President Johnson because he is a Democrat and all those years made them very frustrated, even bitter.  So the time Dick Nixon got into office, they decided, now it‘s our chance to explode about how much we hate the Vietnam War.

Take the issue of spending in the same regard.  Under the Republicans, under George W. Bush, the guy didn‘t veto a single spending bill.  The Republicans felt like they‘d blown their record as fiscal responsibility people.  So, now, they‘re taking it out on Obama.  It‘s a delayed response of anger.  That‘s my theory.

HASTERT:  I don‘t agree.  You got a theory.  Newt has a theory here. 

I have a theory, too.

You know, I think in ‘74, people were upset with the Watergate thing and they threw Nixon out and they threw Republicans out.  That‘s why they were upset.

And I think in ‘94, there had been a huge—under the Clinton administration, been a tax increase.  They‘d been a tax—

MATTHEWS:  Who got their taxes increased in ‘93, ‘94?

HASTERT:  Senior citizens on Medicare.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, on Medicare.

HASTERT:  Big time.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

HASTERT:  Right?

MATTHEWS:  You guys, unbelievable.  If there‘s any tax increase, it affects everybody.  I know how that works for you guys.

Let me ask you this: why are Republicans all of a sudden into fiscal responsibility again when they weren‘t under Bush?

HASTERT:  Well, you know, they were under Bush.  I was there.  So I—

MATTHEWS:  How many bills did he veto?  How many bills veto that we‘re

--

           

(CROSSTALK)

HASTERT:  We didn‘t give him any bills to veto because we cut them down.  You know, we paid down—

MATTHEWS:  You doubled the national debt.

HASTERT:  No.  We paid down $550 billion in public debts.  The first time that ever happened.

MATTHEWS:  You doubled the national debt under President Bush.

HASTERT:  Yes.  We had—we had a war, a two-front war, and we had 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Everything else is -- 9/11 is your middle part of every sentence.  I understand it.  I get it.  Everything is—in other words, 9/11 is the reason—

HASTERT:  Oh, come on, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  -- you doubled the national debt.  You doubled the national debt.

HASTERT:  Look, we had a war—

MATTHEWS:  And now, you‘re blaming the Democrats.  I‘m sorry.

HASTERT:  No, I didn‘t blame the Democrats.  I said we had a war and we had 9/11.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s talk about John Boehner.  You know, a lot of people are kidding to him about smoking.  I think that‘s his decision.  Maybe it‘s a bad one but it‘s his decision.

He looks like a golfer that just blew a putt.  He‘s never happy.

Do you have to be happy a little bit to be a leader of the political party, and not looked like you‘re always ticked off like Boehner?

HASTERT:  Well, look, I think there‘s a lot of talent in the political party.

Boehner‘s served a long time there.  He came in a little bit after I did.  He was in leadership under Newt and came back in leadership when he knocked out Roy Blunt.  So, I think he thinks probably it‘s his turn to be speaker.

But I think there‘s a lot of good, young people that are going to be a

minority leader, majority leaders and other things as well.  So, you can‘t

you can‘t—you have to look at whole party.

           

MATTHEWS:  You know, it‘s funny about the difference between Republican Party.  You‘ve been challenging all of my theories, Mr. Hastert, Mr. Speaker, and you‘re fully entitled to.

HASTERT:  This is HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  Now, I know.  Here‘s my theory: the Democrats kill their wounded.  If you lose a presidential election in the Democratic Party, you‘re gone.  If you‘re John Kerry and you lose by one state, you‘re gone.  If you‘re the Dukakis, forget about it.  If you‘re Jimmy Carter, forget it.

In your party, if you lose an election, they run you next time.  I mean, I can see—I can see Mitt Romney being your party nominee next time.  I can see like Bob Dole 20 years later.  Nixon ran five times.

Does your party forgive more than the other party?  In other words, Boehner you said it‘s his turn.  That‘s so Republican to say it‘s his turn.  That‘s how you guys think.

HASTERT:  You know, I think—I said, I said, I think Boehner thinks it‘s his turn.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, I see.

HASTERT:  So, we‘ll see what happens.

MATTHEWS:  Is that—is it Romney‘s turn?

HASTERT:  You know, look, I‘m not—

MATTHEWS:  Ha!

HASTERT:  -- I‘m not in that race.  We‘ll see.  We‘ve got good candidates, too.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  But you like Romney, don‘t you?

HASTERT:  Sure.  I like Romney.  I like the governor from Indiana.  I like the governor from Mississippi.

MATTHEWS:  You are so regular.  Let me ask you, Mr. Speaker—Mitt Romney instigated, if you will, health care in Massachusetts.  A lot of the Tea Party people say he started the Obama thing.  He was a stalking horse for socialized medicine in Massachusetts.

How can you run him against Obama?

HASTERT:  Look, I‘m not sure if Romney‘s going to be the candidate.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s your candidate.

HASTERT:  Well, he also did a lot of good things.  Well, you know, he left Massachusetts with a rainy day fund.  It never happened before.  He also did some things and—through sheer force of personalities rescued the 2000 Olympics in Utah—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s true.

HASTERT:  -- which were going down the hill.  And he‘s been a force of 500 guys.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re with him anymore.  You‘ve dropped him.

HASTERT:  I didn‘t say.  I haven‘t dropped him.  I haven‘t made a decision yet.

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  You‘re not with him anymore then.  Ha!

Thank you, Mr. Hastert, Mr. Speaker.  Welcome back to the fight.  It‘s great to have you on.

HASTERT:  Hey, my pleasure.  Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS:  If this is a pleasure, we can do better.

When we return, the most important political event is happening right now.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with perhaps the most important political event happening right now.  I‘m referring to the peace talks, the Middle East.

If we get peace over there, if we settle this conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, if we get a two-state solution that protects Israel‘s security and also gives national respect to the Palestinians, it could have historic benefits for our own country.

I say it often, the real battle between east and west is taking place over the cafe tables of Cairo and Damascus and Amman.  They‘re the young people of the Arab world who are discussing and deciding their futures.  Do they want to study engineering here, in universities like Michigan State or do they sympathize with our violent enemies?  We have got win that argument.

And one powerful way do it is to reclaim the peacekeeping role we have played over years in the Middle East.  We could not have better people working on this, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Senator George Mitchell.

Secretary Clinton is a top-tier American politician with a record of both strong support for Israel and strong support for a peace agreement.  As she has noted, she‘s the first American leader to publicly advocate a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state.  She took some heat for it at home.  But there it is.

George Mitchell managed to negotiate peace between the nationalists and the union sides in Northern Ireland—a brutal undertaking that he championed courageously and relentlessly to its positive conclusion.

Israel has a strong leader in Bibi Netanyahu.

Mahmoud Abbas is a credible leader on the Palestinian side.  Abbas said just today that there‘s no alternative of the talks that are underway.

If they can achieve a deal over Jerusalem, over the territorial border, over security, one that creates a real autonomous Palestinian country which can truly take its place in the region, if Israel can free itself of the moral and religious burden of the millions who wish that autonomy, there will be a pair of winners in that region.  And we, American, will be relieved of the endless antipathy of 1 billion Islamic people who see as hostile to the dignity and rights of the Palestinians—an antipathy that has been such a powerful weapon in the hands of our enemies.

As I said, the most important politics for our country right now is taking place far from home.  Fortunately for us, it could not be in better hands than those of Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell.

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

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

           

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