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updated 9/22/2010 3:46:15 PM ET 2010-09-22T19:46:15

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Bill Maher plays HARDBALL.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight, some real time with Bill Maher—smart, riotous (ph), deeply irreverent.  Hey, is nothing sacred?  Star of comedy and politics, Bill Maher plays HARDBALL tonight right up front on the midterms, the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and of course, the candidate who has appeared on his show nearly two dozen times, the sorcerer‘s apprentice, Christine O‘Donnell.  Bill Maher, top of the world, Ma!

Plus, do you remember this moment from yesterday‘s CNBC town hall with President Obama?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VELMA HART, CFO, AMVETS:  Quite frankly, I‘m exhausted.  I‘m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the woman talking truth to the president is Velma Hart (ph), and she‘s why Democrats could be facing big losses this November.  Velma Hart joins us later in the show to talk about how President Obama has failed to meet his challenges and her challenges and what it will take to win back the enthusiasm of voters like her.

And the new McCarthyism.  We heard it here on HARDBALL last night from the Values Voters Summit, the attacks on Muslim and the claim that somehow, President Obama wants to impose Sharia law, Islamic law, in the United States—you know, cutting off hands, stoning, that sort of thing.  Republicans are selling the scare.  Should some folks be worried?

Plus, just say no.  Late this afternoon, Senate Republicans voted down an effort to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.  We‘ll get into the politics of that story and who wins by that vote coming November 2nd and who, if anybody, loses.

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the diabolic talk of Newt Gingrich, who is day after day raising hatred, anger and fear with all his craft and wile.

We start with Bill Maher, the host of “Real Time” from HBO.  Bill Maher, thank you so much for joining us.  I want you to watch Newt Gingrich.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen to the great man himself.

Oh, we‘re going to show—I‘m sorry.  We‘re going to show—we‘re going to go right now to—you know what?  We‘re going to go—we‘re going to go to you on “Real Time.”  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  Christine, if you‘re watching, I created you!

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  You need to come on this show.  If you don‘t come on this show, I‘m going to show a clip every week.  I‘m the only one who has them.  (INAUDIBLE)

Let me show this.  This is from “Politically Incorrect,” I don‘t know what year, like, 1997 or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You were a witch.

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL (R-DE), SENATE CANDIDATE:  I dabbled into witchcraft.  I never joined a coven.  I did!  I did!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute!  You were a witch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, she was a witch.

O‘DONNELL:  I didn‘t join a coven.  I didn‘t join a coven.  Let‘s get this—

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a minute.  I love this!  You‘re a witch.  You go on Halloween to—

O‘DONNELL:  I was a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, wait a minute!

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s exactly why!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How (INAUDIBLE) be a witch?

O‘DONNELL:  Because I dabbled into witchcraft.  I hung around people who were doing these things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Having fun?

O‘DONNELL:  I‘m not making this stuff up!  I know what they told me they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, what do they do?

O‘DONNELL:  I mean, on one of my dates—

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait!

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn‘t know it.  And I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You first date was a satanic altar?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes, I know.  We went to a movie and then, like, had a little midnight picnic—

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the United States—the candidate for the United States senator from Delaware of the Republican Party.  Here‘s her response to you, Bill, for your thoughts.  Let‘s listen.  This is Christine O‘Donnell going back at you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Bill wanted ratings!  I gave him ratings.  I was in high school.  Who didn‘t have interesting friends in high school?  (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bill, she says she was there to boost your ratings.

MAHER:  My turn?

MATTHEWS:  Yes, your turn.

MAHER:  Well, it‘s funny to me, Chris, because this is the woman who claimed on another one of our “Politically Correct” episodes from the ‘90s that she would not lie even in the case of hiding Anne Frank in her attic.  Eddie Izzard (ph) confronted her and said, Really, if Hitler was at the door and you had Anne Frank in the attic, you wouldn‘t lie?  She said, No, God would find a way.

So it‘s funny to me that she wouldn‘t lie in that instance, but she‘d lie to get me ratings?  That itself a lie.  So I guess he‘s a liar.  But I like her.  I don‘t think she‘s a meaningful liar.  I like Christine a lot.  I hope she comes on our show.  I will be kind to her, as I always was.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think she did bring up the whole fact of Satanism and having gone to some altar of a satanic altar with a date one night?  What other motive besides boosting your ratings could she have had?  I‘m trying to delve into her thinking here.

MAHER:  Well, I think she was always a very forthright person. 

There‘s one thing I will say about Christine is that she‘s very sincere.  You know, there are some people who you feel like they‘re just saying it because that‘s what the people want to hear.  Not Christine.  I think she really believes everything she says.

And I also think that devout people love the story of redemption.  They love it when you‘re with the devil and then you throw them off for Jesus.  Remember Bush?  He was drunk until he was 40, and then he walked on the beach with Billy Graham or something and he became, you know, a guy who went on to other things.

MATTHEWS:  I like the redemption, too.  Let‘s take a look at her in saying something she may have a problem defending.  Here she is on Fox back in 2007.  I think it was on Bill O‘Reilly.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know what to make of that.  Are there mice—I know elephants are afraid of mice, but they must be really afraid of mice with people brains in them.  What is she talking about?  I‘ve never heard of these mice with human brains in them.

MAHER:  Yes.  It was a little unfortunate.  I guess she read the article wrong.  I don‘t know.  But you know, when I saw all this coverage of the witch stuff, I was laughing yesterday because that‘s not really important to the election.  It‘s just a sideshow, as you would say.  And it was funny.  I don‘t think it should hurt her.  It was something she was doing in high school.

But when you think this about scientific issues that are facing this nation—I mean, people really could be helped by stem cell research.  That‘s a real issue.  You know, there are 37 Republican candidates for the Senate.  Not one of them believes that global warming is real and manmade, except for one, Mike Castle, the guy she defeated in Delaware.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHER:  -- the real issue.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I look at them, they don‘t believe in evolution.  They don‘t believe in science.  All the evidence of science they hold up as somehow elitist thinking, right?

MAHER:  Right.  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, there‘s lots of people who I like personally who I don‘t think should be in Congress.  Unfortunately, many of them are already in Congress.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  But there‘s a difference between being a nice person and being fit for office.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you have a problem endorsing some of these people which I think is rational.  Here‘s another bit of surprising rationality. 

I want you to respond to this.  Here‘s Joe Miller when he was caught by

Chris Wallace with a question which wasn‘t a curveball, it was a pretty one

a fastball down the middle.  Here he is, asking a reasonable question of the newly nominated Senate candidate from Alaska on Fox Sunday morning.  Here‘s the question.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  Do you think that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, and would you like to see her run?

JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know, I‘m running a U.S.

Senate race right now in the state of Alaska.  That‘s what I‘m focused on.  I‘m—you know, I‘ve been asked about various candidates throughout the country during this race.  That‘s not my role to comment on those candidacies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This is, like, within two weeks of being endorsed out of nowhere and made it—and made the nominee of the party for the United States, he won‘t give her an inch, this guy.

MAHER:  But I think, Chris, that this is actually very indicative because Sarah Palin just pulled, I think, 7 percent of the vote at the Values Summit.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MAHER:  OK, if she can only get 7 percent of that crowd, maybe her popularity, her candidacy, is all a myth.  If she can‘t get people like Joe Miller, one of her wingnuts from Alaska, to endorse her, if she can‘t get more than 7 percent of the Values voters, maybe her base isn‘t those people.  Maybe it‘s the media, which has nothing better to cover, or actually does have stuff better to cover, but would rather go to Sarah Palin for news.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s maybe both true.  How about this.  The latest poll of Republicans on approval has her the highest approval of any Republican figure.  She‘s at 76 percent.  Now, maybe the question is what do they approve about her or for her.  Or maybe it‘s job approval for someone without a job.  I don‘t know.  But she‘s at 76 percent, Bill.

MAHER:  Well, if that‘s among Republicans, as you say, you have to also consider that 52 percent of Republicans think the president of the United States is sympathetic to terrorists who want to impose Sharia law on this country.  So just, you know, that‘s who you‘re dealing with.  That‘s the group that‘s coming from.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Newt Gingrich making that charge?

MAHER:  You know, I mean, I was never a big fan of Newt Gingrich when he was in office.  I have no idea why the media is still knocking on his door now that he is not in office.  I think he is perhaps the most used guest on the Sunday talk shows.  And what‘s sad is that Newt used to be the thinker in that party.  You know, he was like the Trotsky.  He was like their theoretician.  This is the thinker?  This is the reader?  Well, you know, in the land of—

MATTHEWS:  Well, he said—

MAHER:  -- midgets, pygmies cast tall shadows.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, of course, he has the theory about the president thinking like a Kenyan.  But here‘s a smarter guy.  Here‘s bill Clinton this morning on “Good Morning America.”  I want you thoughts about Mr. Clinton and how he‘s been performing lately.  Here he is, President Bill Clinton.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The American people can elect whomever they want, but she served, you know, not a full term as governor, and she went out and did this.  We don‘t even know if she‘s going to run for president.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CO-HOST:  What‘s your gut on that?

CLINTON:  But I think—I think she‘s clearly a public figure who is

who speaks well and persuasively to the people who listen to her and she‘s somebody to be reckoned with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  There‘s the president on George Stephanopoulos this morning.  He‘s—he‘s a good judge of horseflesh, as we say.  He‘s not underestimating her, Bill.

MAHER:  Horseflesh?  Let‘s not go back to that, Chris.  And leave Monica Lewinsky out of this!

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER:  Actually, he made a very good point.  She was the governor of a state with no people for half a term.  There has to be a little higher bar, I think, for running for office than just having a Facebook page.  And by the way, speaking of that, you know, there are four states in this country—Delaware is another one of them, Alaska is one of them, I think Vermont and maybe it‘s North Dakota, forgive me if I get that wrong—that are so tiny that they have two senators and only one congressman, and yet they have two senators from Delaware and Alaska representing, like, a few hundred thousand people and one senator from my state of California represents 18 million.  I know the tea baggers are on that issue, so sometimes even a broken clock is right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they don‘t like popular election of senators, but I think they still like the little states to get their two big senators.  Let me ask you about Jimmy Carter—

MAHER:  Oh, yes.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Jimmy Carter—I got to ask you about Jimmy Carter.  They don‘t like popular election of senators.  You‘d think they‘d want power to the people.  They don‘t want the people to pick their senators.  They want the state legislatures to pick the senators—

MAHER:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- which is very strange for an anti-establishment political movement.  Let me ask you about President Carter.  You (ph) got all the time in the world.  I worked for him once, as you know.  He‘s an interesting guy.  What do you make of his latest statements about being different than the other former presidents?

MAHER:  I love Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter is so honest and out there.  You know, sometimes I hear people say, Oh, Obama, his term could become like Jimmy Carter‘s.  Yes, I wish!  You know, Jimmy Carter did some real bold things, like returning the Panama Canal.  Can you see a president trying to do that today?  Or getting on national television and telling the American people that they‘re lazy and they‘re using too much energy?  Remember that speech?  I like Jimmy Carter.  I think this country needs a lot more of that sort of forthright honesty.  Go, Jimmy.  Keep—keep talking.  That‘s the great thing about being old, you don‘t give a rat‘s ass anymore.

MATTHEWS:  You are so honest!  Bill Maher, thank you for coming on this program.  You‘re the best.  Thank you.

MAHER:  Always a pleasure.

MATTHEWS:  I love getting on your show once in a while.  “Real Time” airs Friday nights at 10:00 on HBO.  No commercials.

Coming up: Call it the new McCarthyism.  Why is Newt Gingrich talking about how liberals are out to impose Islamic law, Sharia law?  He‘s saying this stuff!  What‘s wrong with this scare talk?  What‘s it about?  Why is he doing it?  And we‘ve got the latest polls on key November election races across the country.  We‘re going to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” when we come back.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Another top-level member of President Obama‘s economic team is leaving.  A senior administration official confirms to NBC News that Lawrence Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, is leaving at the end of this year.  And he‘s the thinker behind it all.  CNBC‘s John Harwood reports Summers will return to Harvard.  The departure of Summers would leave Tim Geithner as the only original top-tier member of the President Obama‘s economic team.

HARDBALL back after this.

MATTHEWS:  Time for the HARDBALL “Scoreboard,” where we check in on all the hot races around the country to see where they stand right now. 

We begin tonight in West Virginia and its shocking number.  Popular Governor Joe Manchin, a Democrat, now trailing in the race for Senate against Republican John Raese.  Raese is up 46 to 43, according to the (INAUDIBLE) Public Policy polling, which is an automated poll.  And even though most voters in West Virginia approve of the job Manchin‘s done as governor, a majority now say they want Republicans controlling Congress.  Wow!

Now to Wisconsin, where the news isn‘t good for Senator Russ Feingold.  The PPP poll shows Feingold trailing Republican Ron Johnson—get this—by 11 points, 52-41.

And finally, an update on that big governor‘s race in California.  Jerry Brown now has a 5-point lead over Republican Meg Whitman, 47 to 42 in the new PPP poll, and she‘s obviously trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to buy that race.

Muslim-bashing right now is one of the themes of the Value Voters Summit this past weekend, and Newt Gingrich leads the way in whipping up anti-Islamic fervor in this country.  Here he is, stoking fear over what he calls the threat of Sharia law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I have no problem with the mosques that exist in New York City that are peaceful and that obey American law.  But I am totally opposed to any effort to impose Sharia on the United States!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH:  We should have a federal law that says under no circumstance in any jurisdiction in the United States will Sharia be used by any court to apply to any judgment made about American law!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH:  And we should make clear to Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan, who both seem confused on this topic, that no judge will remain in office who tries to use Sharia law to interpret the American Constitution!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Has bashing the Muslim religion become the new form of McCarthyism in this country?  “The Washington Post‘s” Eugene Robinson wrote about it in this day‘s—today‘s column.  And John Heilemann‘s with “New York” magazine.

Gentlemen, I‘m amazed.  I don‘t know what to say.  I‘m going to let you talk, Gene Robinson.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s—it‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Why is he saying this stuff?

ROBINSON:  You know, for political gain.  He thinks that Muslim-bashing is a winner.  I mean, that‘s the only reasonable explanation.  It‘s an absurd thing to say, a law—federal law that no court would impose Sharia law—

MATTHEWS:  Like whipping—like whipping, caning, beheading, stoning?

ROBINSON:  As if that‘s a remote possibility, as if that could happen under the Constitution.  I mean, it‘s just—it‘s—it‘s—it‘s ridiculous on its face.  It‘s—

MATTHEWS:  But why is Newt—

ROBINSON:  -- pernicious.

MATTHEWS:  Newt has had a reputation of having an IQ.

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t have a drinking problem, like—like Joe McCarthy did.

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  What is his excuse for saying things that clearly aren‘t true, Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee, now associate justice, racist, Shirley Sherrod racist, the president thinks like a Kenyan?

These comments keep getting higher and higher on the crazy score from a man who‘s not crazy.  Is it evil? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  What is he doing here?

ROBINSON:  Well, I think two things.  One, I think he‘s not—nobody‘s going to get to the right of Newt on these issues.  And, so, you know, whoever‘s out there waving the kind of Judeo-Christian, white, American banner, Newt‘s not going to be outwaved. 

The second thing is, I think that, on an intellectual level, perhaps Newt buys into the whole kind of clash of civilizations—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is this how a guy in his third marriage works with the moral majority?  Is this how you do it?  You find some common ground with the far right, even though you don‘t have any cultural or real lifestyle connection with them?  You show you hate as much they do, and, therefore, you might be a good Christian gentleman?  Is that what he is up to here?

HEILEMANN:  Perhaps.  I also will say that I‘m against the position of Icelandic law and all of the laws of other countries.  I‘m on Newt‘s side.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN:  Icelandic law, Russian law, all those laws, we should not apply them in the United States courts. 

Look, he is I think underestimated by a lot of people in how seriously he could be a runner for the Republican Party.  I think he‘s going to run.  And if you think about how this Republican election in 2012 is going to break down, there are going to be these party regulars, Mitt Romney probably being kind of the—right now, the de facto front-runner of that group. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

HEILEMANN:  The other side, the people who are trying to corral this Tea Party energy, some of which is nativist, some of which is xenophobic, some of which does think the president is a Muslim, some of which is not comfortable with an African-American president, that group right there, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are the two—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why would they think an establishment figure, someone who has been working and living off the federal payroll for a good part of his life?

HEILEMANN:  Look, Newt Gingrich is a hero to the Republican grassroots.  There is not a politician right now in the Republican Party, apart from Sarah Palin, who can go to parts of the country where that Tea Party energy is strong and get thousands of people.  They think he‘s a hero from ‘94. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to his rap, because people got to get used to hearing what they‘re hearing from this guy, because it‘s so weird.  Here is Newt Gingrich a couple of months ago bashing the left, as he calls it, for not taking the Sharia threat seriously. 

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  And how we don‘t have some kind of movement in this country on the left that understands that Sharia is a direct mortal threat to virtually every value that the left has is really one of the most interesting historical questions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think there was a communist threat.  It was smaller than McCarthy ever admitted.  It was a couple of people, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Elizabeth Bentley.  Some people were agents.  He sold it as hundreds and hundreds of people in the State Department.  The whole country is ready to go to hell in a hand basket.

Is this guy taking a weird case in New Jersey where a judge thought that the guy had a mind-set about his relationship with his wife that somehow justified his behavior—and he was overruled by an appellate court—and turned it into some threat?

ROBINSON:  Well, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s your column, I think, laid it out today.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  No, that case to which you refer was a family court judge, obviously not the brightest bulb in the judicial chandelier, who made a bone-headed decision, and was reversed on -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because he said—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Even he didn‘t recognize Sharia law. 

ROBINSON:  No.

MATTHEWS:  He said, if this Moroccan guy married to a Moroccan woman, if he thought he wasn‘t committing a crime in this thing he did with his wife, raped her or whatever, if he thought that wasn‘t a crime, then somehow that wasn‘t a crime. 

And he was immediately overruled by the appellate court, saying, it doesn‘t matter what he thinks or what his religion is, that rape is a crime.  It‘s almost a capital crime.  It used to be.  And we‘re going to condemn it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  It was—

MATTHEWS:  Well, what‘s Newt talking about? 

ROBINSON:  Well, good question. 

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  What is he talking about?  He‘s talking about this gigantic threat of Sharia law that doesn‘t exist, stealth jihadis who are, as we speak, working to undermine our legal firmament.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  This “they‘re hiding under the bed” thing, is it going to work?

HEILEMANN:  Look, I am surprised when I am in the country how few people this resonates this.  Are there some people it does?  It resonates with some people.

But there are a lot of people in the country, when you go out and say, hey, how do you feel about the Ground Zero mosque, if you‘re out in Iowa or Kansas or California?  People say, I don‘t give a damn about this Ground Zero mosque.  I care about my job. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  And it might work in some narrow precincts of the Republican electorate.  On a national level, I think most people are totally switched off to these issues.  And they look at this and say, what are these guys talking about?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When they go out—let‘s be careful here, because there is a cultural piece to this.  When they give these rallies—and they‘re pretty wild rallies out here on the Mall or anywhere else—we want our country back, they‘re not talking about unemployment and real problems. 

ROBINSON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They‘re talking about somebody, forces of evil or whatever, have taken over their country.  They‘re talking about Sharia.  They‘re talking about Islamic people.  They‘re talking about African-American—I don‘t know what they‘re—what are they talking about? 

ROBINSON:  Well, they‘re—

MATTHEWS:  The black president.

ROBINSON:  They‘re talking about the first African-American president, who has a name—who has the name Barack Hussein Obama and whom they are painting as alien and foreign and, you know, dangerous person—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And his father is channeling him to fight the British oppressors. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here he is. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what Newt Gingrich said to “The National Review,” a serious—I used to grow up reading that magazine.  It was a serious magazine under Buckley and very anti-bias, by the way.

“What if Obama is so outside our comprehension, and only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions?  That is the most accurate predictive model for his behavior.  This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.”

He conned us into thinking he was an American.  He‘s really a Kenyan guy over there thinking like that against the British oppressors who he now sees as the white ruling class from Wall Street.  That‘s the way Newt‘s selling this thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  It is. 

And it‘s a revival, in a lot of ways, of the culture war arguments from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.  It‘s another hook of a way to get in, because part of the thing for a lot of these people who believe that they want our country—that they say, I want our country back, they‘re also talking more generally about the liberal conspiracy to take over and teach condoms in the schools and -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you mean the good old American left. 

HEILEMANN:  Yes, the good old American left, and homosexuals in the military who are trying to get in with a vote—would drive through the repeal of Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.  This is a new way for them to hook in to the same cultural animosities that Republicans played on successfully back as far as the late ‘60s. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  They don‘t need it.  They got the key to the door.  It‘s unemployment.  Why are they doing this?

Anyway, thank you, guys.  I got some real pros here, by the way. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Gene Robinson, John Heilemann, I am humbled. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m not sarcastic.

Up next:  Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski‘s running as a write-in candidate.  But if her campaign can‘t spell her name, can voters?  This is a little bit of a challenge.  But, apparently, the judge up there is going to help the voters, so they know what they‘re up to.  The judge is going to say, you voted for Murkowski.

You‘re watching HARDBALL—we‘re back to hanging chads—on MSNBC.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Remember to spell-check.  Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has got a write-in campaign to try to keep her job.  She wants voters to write in her name on the ballot on November 2 to vote for her.  So, that would mean she needs voters to know how to write her name, right?

Well, her first TV ad closed with this shot.  There it is.  Look down at the bottom of the screen with the Web site address.  Murkowski is missing an O.  The senator may want to start with her own staff to make this thing work.

Up next:  Former President Jimmy Carter went on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and got in—on to the Christine O‘Donnell act.  Here he is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Had it not been for that dissatisfaction with Washington, I wouldn‘t have been elected.  But I‘m not completely compatible with the Tea Party.  I haven‘t been involved in witchcraft. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Well, the only

--

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STEWART:  The only thing I would say to that is, you‘re only 85.  Give it time. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER:  Yes.  I know.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And President Carter wasn‘t the only ex-president hitting late-night television last night.

Here‘s former President Bill Clinton on “The Late Show With David Letterman” talking about his new son-in-law. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  If I were in your position, here‘s how I would want this.  I would want him to be a little scared. 

(LAUGHTER)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well—

LETTERMAN:  Is he?

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  I don‘t think so.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Oh.

CLINTON:  He was—he was good enough to come and ask for my permission, however—

LETTERMAN:  Oh. 

CLINTON:  Which I appreciated. 

LETTERMAN:  So, now you have balanced out the family.  You have two women, two men. 

CLINTON:  Yes, I finally have a chance. 

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  Yes. 

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  You know, that—that was—

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON:  My main goal was to have a chance.  Hillary wanted this marriage because she wants to be a grandmother more than she wanted to be president. 

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON:  You know, she really—

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Next up: dirt ball.  New York‘s fight for governor is getting very dirty.  Look at this Photoshopped flier that Republican Carl Paladino has put out about Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Wow.

In response, the New York Democratic Party put out this image of Paladino.  There he is as a hog.

Well, when Attorney General Cuomo himself got a look at the Democratic ad, he blew the whistle, saying the ad was not constructive.  I would say a very good call by Andrew Cuomo. 

Up next:  In yesterday‘s CNBC town hall, Velma Hart told President Obama she‘s exhausted from having to defend him and unhappy with the way things stand right now.  Well, she represents thousands of Obama supporters, maybe millions, who are no longer fired up about his presidency.  And we will meet her and find out what the president needs to do between now and November 2 to win back the enthusiasm. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks ending mixed, as investors digest the latest word from the Federal Reserve, the Dow Jones industrials adding seven points, the support losing almost three points, and the Nasdaq falling six.  No big change in tone from the Fed, more indications of concern about the slow pace of recovery and more promises to step in with additional support if needed. 

Meanwhile, a surprise jump in new housing starts was a sign the sector could be stabilizing after the end of the popular homebuyer tax credit. 

In stocks, drug maker Vivus‘ shares spiked on word the test of its new weight loss drug, Qnexa, are going better than expected. 

“The New York Times” skidded on an analyst downgrade for the entertainment sector.

Carnival Cruise Lines are higher on a bigger-than-expected boost in quarterly sales.  But shares in Adobe Systems are tumbling in after-hours trading on weaker-than-expected earnings delivered just after the closing bell.

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

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VELMA HART, CFO, AMVETS:  Quite frankly, I‘m exhausted.  I‘m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now. 

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Right. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With that declaration in Monday‘s CNBC town hall, Velma Hart gave voice to the frustrations of many middle-class Americans.  She‘s the national finance director and CFO for AMVETS, a veterans organization.  And she is an Army veteran who served in the U.S. Army Reserve for almost a decade. 

Welcome, Velma Hart.  Thank you, Velma.

HART:  Thank you, sir.  Thank you so much. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, what you did, I thought, yesterday was speak clearly about American life.  When you talked about how you used to have to have hot dogs and beans as the main dinner because it was not that expensive, and you fear you might have to go back to that, and you have kids—a kid—at least one kid headed towards college, I think you captured the reality of a lot of Americans. 

HART:  I appreciate you saying that, because that‘s my reality. 

And, you know, I‘m worried.  I know I shouldn‘t be.  Somehow, I know I shouldn‘t be.  I should have confidence in our leaders to get us through these trying times, but I‘m getting a little anxious.  And I—quite frankly, the other thing that I‘m concerned about is I think a lot of other people are getting anxious. 

And because they‘re getting anxious, anxious people do desperate things.  And I would like for us to avoid that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the president of the United States has in him, in his office, the power to dramatically reduce the unemployment rate?  Does he have the power to do it?

HART:  Single-handedly, absolutely not. 

This is a democracy for a reason.  And I respect that.  However, he is our chief.  And the hard questions have to go to him.  I deeply respect the president.  I appreciate his contributions.  I appreciate the progress we have made to date.

But I‘m troubled.  And I hoped, at some point, even though I knew I had to defend him for a long time and defend why I voted for him—and I was good with that—I hoped, at some point, it would become easier to defend him.  And it‘s still very hard, and maybe it‘s very hard by design. 

MATTHEWS:  I want you to grade his answer here, because you were the one asking it.  Here‘s the question—the answer to your question.  He talked about what he had done in terms of credit card issues as president.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you have a credit card, which I assume you do—

HART:  No. 

OBAMA:  Well, see, now you‘re really—now you‘re showing how responsible you are. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, then he goes and talks about his achievements.  Here he is.  Let‘s listen to his achievements, because he goes more into it here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  As a consequence of the changes we made, the credit card companies can‘t increase your interest rate without notifying you.  If your child, heaven forbid, had a preexisting condition, before I took office, you were out of luck in terms of being able to get health insurance for that child.  There are a whole host of things that we‘ve put in place that do make your life better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of that, because you were saying times were tough and he talked about the reality of life as you know it in this country, as an American, and he was telling you stuff you didn‘t know—but do you think that was helpful, that way?

HART:  Oh, well, I think he told me things that I know, but I appreciate the affirmation.  The changes he outlined, credit card changes, the scholarship changes—those are positive changes, they just won‘t affect me at this time.  They don‘t affect me at this time.

And he also, I appreciated the fact that he allowed me to joke with him a little bit.  Of course, I have a credit card.  Is there an American that doesn‘t a credit card?  But the thing that I was left within the answer is that those are great things, Mr. President, and no question, you‘ve made progress and we appreciate that, however, we want to feel it.  We need to feel it in our everyday lives.

MATTHEWS:  What was he supposed to say?  We have almost 9.6 percent unemployment rate.  Is he supposed to say, it‘s better than you think?  Is he supposed to say it‘s coming down two points next month?  Or—is there anything he could have said to you that would have made you happy?

HART:  Well, I think he did say something that made me happy.  He was very candid and honest about the fact that he knows times are hard and he‘s not—he was not there to defend how difficult things are or that things were better than what they appear.  And I appreciated that, because I think that‘s the honest answer.

I think the opening for me was: is this the new reality?  And I don‘t

think he touched strongly enough

(CROSSTALK)

HART:  Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a great question.  My wife calls that the reset and she says we may be in for a reset—meaning people that hope to make a certain income hope to have a certain life for their kids are going to have to downgrade that—

HART:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  -- because of economic reality in the world.

HART:  Well, one of the questions I‘ve been asked is, Velma, you appear to be doing pretty good.  You got two kids in private schools, and you got, you know, a job and your husband has a job.  Aren‘t you doing pretty well?

And the thing I‘ve had to continue to say is, it‘s all relative. 

There are compromises that we make to send our children to private schools. 

You know, I‘d like a new car.  I‘m sure other people would like a new car.  My car is having issues.  But we delayed that and it‘s a deliberate decision and a compromise, a sacrifice for our family because we want to invest in our children for the future.  And that‘s just one example.

There are other things that we‘re doing and we‘re making decisions every day, just like everybody else.  We‘re going to the grocery store and make decisions.  We are looking at our 401(k) plans and determining how much we can truly invest.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HART:  And we‘re unfortunately looking at our tax bill for our house and seeing the accumulated value of that drop.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the government can do, the president of the United States—you mentioned democracy, we know how the process works, you do—that he could be doing to reduce dramatically the unemployment rate in the next year or two?  Anything?  He‘s first term as president, or maybe his only term, how does he reduce it dramatically?  Isn‘t that the question he doesn‘t know the answer to, and to you?

HART:  I absolutely—I absolutely don‘t know the answer to that.  I think someone said yesterday that that was one of the questions that they had and they don‘t know that there‘s an absolute answer to that.  They don‘t know the magic potion for that one.

But I think it‘s necessary because that‘s the way we‘re going to build consumer confidence.  That‘s the way things like the stimulus will work because when consumers are confident and they‘re not fearful, they‘ll spend and they‘ll invest in the economy.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, it‘s a vicious circle, isn‘t it?

HART:  It is a vicious circle.

MATTHEWS:  As long as the unemployment rate is around 10, nobody is going to be confident.  You can give them all the speeches in the world.

HART:  And you know what‘s important to us, Chris, is that we—the organization I work for serves veterans, and we‘re at war.  We‘re bringing veterans home all the time who are coming home maimed sometimes or just coming home from a normal tour and they can‘t find employment.  They can‘t find housing.  They can‘t protect their families.

MATTHEWS:  I forgot to say thank you for your service.

HART:  Oh, thank you.  Thank you for saying that.  I really appreciate that.

MATTHEWS:  What you‘re doing now and what you did for the reserves. 

Thank you, Velma Hart.

I think it‘s great.  I think it helped the president, shook him loose a little bit to see that clear, confident voice of people that should be talking to him.  I think he‘s a little surrounded at the White House perhaps by “yes” people.

HART:  Well, I want to say for the record, though, I am a supporter and I believe in the vision, and I‘m hoping he‘s going to come through.  I have great faith in him, and I think he will.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.

Up next—nice meeting you.  Thank you.

Senate Republicans block a vote on repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the ban on gays in the military.  It failed today, only got 53 votes.  As you know, it takes 60.  We‘ll get to the politics of that one when we return.  No Republicans voted for repeal.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “National Journal” has a new poll number out that gives you an idea of just how toxic the political climate is today.  Here it is: nearly half of all Americans, 49 percent say they admire political leaders who refuse to compromise.  Among Republicans, the number of those who don‘t like compromises is up to 62 percent.  Nearly 2/3 said they don‘t like politicians who are willing to make compromises.

It‘s an astonishing number but it gives you some sense of why the all-or-nothing, take no prisoners attitude of today‘s Tea Party-driven Republican Party has the momentum heading into November.  Democrats are much more open to compromise this fall.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today, Republicans voted down an effort to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”  But why did Senate Leader Harry Reid bring it to vote now when he didn‘t have the votes?  What are the politics at play here today?

Alex Nicholson is founder and executive director of Servicemembers, the nation‘s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans.

Josh Gerstein writes for “Politico.”

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

First question, the big one: Why did it go down?

ALEX NICHOLSON, SERVICEMEMBERS UNITED:  It went down because Senator Reid essentially made it unpalatable for Republicans.  We had the votes lined up, Susan Collins—

MATTHEWS:  What was the poison pill?

NICHOLSON:  I think the poison pill was not allowing Republican—any Republican amendments on it.

MATTHEWS:  Why didn‘t he want any amendments?

NICHOLSON:  Well, he says it‘s because, I believe, he doesn‘t want Republicans screwing with some of the other provisions in the DAA.  We think, however, that Senator Reid was under a lot of pressure to bring this bill up.  He brought the bill up, but he brought it up so that it would fail and Republicans would be able to be blamed.

MATTHEWS:  Who was pushing to bring it up?

NICHOLSON:  Certainly, our community was, the LGBT community, the advocacy communities.  We put a lot of pressure on hi, did a lot of lobbying, did a lot of organizing.  I think it was under a lot of other pressure from some other communities as well.

But he was also under significant pressure from, I think, those in his own party to not bring it up before the midterm elections.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go over, let me go over to Josh Gerstein for a political assessment, a complete, cold analysis.

Did he bring this up just to get to get votes to save his seat in Nevada, Josh?  Is that what is this is about?  I know he‘s got a big gender gap out there.  Women tend to be supportive of gay issues, gay opportunity and rights.  Is this to jack up the women vote, the gay vote in his campaign to get re-elected in a very close call out there?

JOSH GERSTEIN, POLITICO:  I don‘t think that‘s the reason.  I think that is the reason he brought this up in connection with the DREAM Act, the immigration provision that he wanted to tack on here.  So, this became a vehicle for that.

And in terms of a constituency he needs to appeal to out in Nevada, the Latinos, the Hispanic vote out there could be absolutely critical, and he thought this was the way to get their measure up and show them, the Democrats, including him, were in their corner.  And that‘s another group that‘s been disaffected from the Democratic Party in the last year or so.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the question I have is, you know, they have a commission report coming out of the military later this year.  Why not wait for the commission report?

NICHOLSON:  It‘s not necessary to wait for the commission report.  The amendment as it is currently designed, the deal that we struck, completely respects the study, the comprehensive review working group.  It won‘t even go into effect until well after the commission.

MATTHEWS:  This doesn‘t—this is the cart before the horse.  Shouldn‘t you have the vote after you see the information?  Why have the information presented to you if you don‘t think it‘s relevant?

NICHOLSON:  The thing to remember—

MATTHEWS:  You know what I‘m saying?  Why have it studied by the military if you don‘t think it‘s relevant?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  Your thought here, Josh.  I‘m sorry, go ahead.

GERSTEIN:  Yes, Chris.  There‘s a very simple reason for that, which is that the people who advocate repeal are worried that after December, nothing much gets done in December.  So, we‘re talking about next year and they won‘t have the votes anymore.

So, the idea was to put in sort of a time bomb conditional repeal that could be acted on by the Pentagon and the administration next year when there may be no votes or no desire to take this issue up at all.

MATTHEWS:  So, they thought they could get the vote in principle this time and have it acted on perhaps in a lame duck as well, right?

GERSTEIN:  I think they—well, part of this would have to be brought up in the lame duck in terms of a conference committee report.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

GERSTEIN:  But they are concerned that even in a lame duck, they might have trouble moving this.  Even senators, like Russ Feingold, say they opposed lame duck legislation.  So they could be even further away in terms votes from getting this done in a lame duck.

MATTHEWS:  What I‘m looking at is no Republicans voted for this, not the two senators from Maine, not the people who are open to the idea of it, nobody.  The fact they only got—it lost a bunch of—a bunch of Republicans, Democrats today.  What do we make of that?  It only got 53 out of 59 Democrats.

NICHOLSON:  Yes.  You know, I think Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln were at the top of our list of Democrats to worry about.  You know, I think had a couple of Republicans voted with us, had it been palatable for them to vote with us, they certainly would have been on board.

You know, I think the thing to keep in mind is we had the votes lined up, we had them lined up, we had commitments, implicit or explicit, from a couple of Republicans—

MATTHEWS:  But you are seven short, six short because Harry Reid would have flipped the other way.

NICHOLSON:  Right.  Harry Reid was more procedural.

But, you know, we firmly believe Susan Collins would have voted with us, had it been optimal.  Dick Lugar would have voted with us.  We believe George Voinovich would have voted with us.  And in that case, certainly Lincoln and Pryor would have voted with us as well.

But, you know, Chris, the important thing to keep in mind about the study like you were talking about, it was never intended to inform the legislative process.  It was always meant to be and sold us to as a wholly internal study for the DOD to identify issues.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to the politics question here again.

Josh, what I don‘t understand is the American people overwhelmingly support open service.  It‘s the one thing in our life that‘s really changed in terms of social issues.  It‘s not like abortion issues that take time to change or go back and forth.  This one has been a pendulum swinging—

GERSTEIN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- directly in one direction toward open service.  Why is the Senate behind the public on this?

GERSTEIN:  Well, I think they‘re behind the public because they always lag the public somewhat, but also because we‘re in this incredibly polarized primary political climate right now going into this November election.

Republicans are very, very concern, and all they‘re concerned about is their base.  And among the base, that‘s probably the only area where you can find significant resistance to changing this policy.  And I think you have that element of the Republican Party basically dictating the response, and seeing that incredible lockstep vote from Republicans today, extending even to people like Susan Collins, who says she supports repeal but just didn‘t like the way that Harry Reid was doing this.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  So, you have a vote that‘s way short today.  When is their next chance to do this?

NICHOLSON:  I think right after we come back from the midterms.

MATTHEWS:  So, what‘s going to happen?

NICHOLSON:  I think we‘ll move forward then.  You know, it‘s going to be a little bit of a free-for-all.  We don‘t know exactly the calculus is going to change.  But, you know, we‘re still optimistic about it.  You know, I mean, that‘s all I‘d say.  I‘d leave it at that.  We‘re optimistic about it.  I mean, we have to be.

MATTHEWS:  So, there will be a lame duck?

NICHOLSON:  Yes.  I think—I think it will definitely come up in lame duck.

MATTHEWS:  You think, Josh - Josh, is there going to be a lame duck?

GERSTEIN:  There will be a lame duck session.  I think it will be brought up.  I‘m not—I‘m far from sure that this will go through or the vote will be any easier.  And if it doesn‘t happen, I think you‘re really talking about a bloodbath of recrimination, both among gay rights advocacy groups and involving the White House for not having done enough of a heavy lift here to get this done.

MATTHEWS:  So, anybody going to win today?  A win for anybody here, except Harry Reid, that lost today?  Does it help anybody for trying to, E for effort?

NICHOLSON:  I don‘t think it does.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

NICHOLSON:  I think he wanted it to help him, but it doesn‘t.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thanks.  Alex Nicholson, thank you.  Josh Gerstein, thanks for analysis.

When we return, let‘s speak of the devil—Gingrich has reached new depths.

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with a political force that is truly diabolic, Newt Gingrich.  Newt Gingrich comes to us as Mephistopheles.  He appears without mask or pretense.  He offers no joy nor pleasure nor happiness, only trouble itself, trouble.  All we got trouble.

He calls good people racist, people like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Department of Agriculture official, Shirley Sherrod.  He doesn‘t beat around the bush, he calls them racist in broad daylight.

With President Obama, he gets more vicious, more weirdly particular. 

He says the president has the mind of a Kenyan.

What is this man doing in our public life?  Why are we living in a public square so dominated by the eye of Newt?

Diabolically, he speaks on any matter that will cause hatred, anger, or fear, or all three.  He warned this past week that we are in danger, this United States of America, our country, of being placed under Sharia law.  He declared his opposition to what he called any effort to impose—that was his word—impose Sharia on the United States—you know, arms and legs being cut off, stoning.

Newt barks out a message of hate and confusion and anger that would be frightening if it were not so darkly absurd.

Is Newt Mephistopheles in a suit?  Well, no, not literally.  But he speaks and acts like it.

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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