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updated 9/29/2010 11:32:55 AM ET 2010-09-29T15:32:55

Guests: Howard Fineman, Jackie DeAngelis, Josh Marshall, Joan Walsh, Roger Simon, Jack Conway, P.J. O‘Rourke

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Buck up!

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Belfast.  I‘ll be traveling this week with former president Clinton, who arrives in Derry tomorrow.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Leading off tonight: Cheering section.  Both President Obama and Vice President Biden are telling the Democratic base to stop complaining and get out there and vote.  Mr. Obama said in a “Rolling Stone” interview it‘s inexcusable and irresponsible for Democrats to sit out voting this November.  Will this get out the vote?  Our latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll has some hints that the Democrats may be closing the enthusiasm gap.

One Democrat who seems to be gaining ground is Jack Conway, who‘s running for Senate against Tea Partier Rand Paul in Kentucky.  He‘s with us tonight.

And we‘ve got P.J. O‘Rourke, a good name to have when you‘re broadcasting from the Emerald Island.  His new book is called “Don‘t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards.”  Is he cheering against the Democrats?

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with the need to get in the car and drive.

All that‘s ahead, but first let‘s check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” and the latest polls in the tight races around the country.  We‘ll start with the Connecticut Senate race, where Dick Blumenthal leads Linda McMahon by just 3 points.  In Pennsylvania, the new Suffolk poll has Joe Sestak now within 5 points of Pat Toomey.  In Missouri, a poll by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has Robin Carnahan within striking distance of Republican Roy Blunt.  But in New Hampshire, it‘s Republican Kelly Ayotte with a 14-point lead over Democrat Paul Hodes.

We‘ll continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” on all the big races each night leading up to election day.

Joining me right now is Josh Marshall, founder and editor of Talking Points Memo, and Joan Walsh of Salon.  Let me start with you, Josh, and this new appeal by the president and the vice president.  Speaking of talking points, they seem to have them—Buck up.

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  You know, they‘re in a tough position.  They have to get their base out.  And frankly, myself, I think they‘re right.  If, you know, the people—every Democrat who supports those positions, those people need to show up.  The problem is, is, you know, that the White House keeps coming into this with—a lot of this comes down to tone.  And it‘s really tough for them to get the message out about but without seeming dismissive or condescending.  So they‘ve—you know, they‘ve got their work cut out for them, and they already got this track record, where a month ago, Robert Gibbs said this thing about the “professional left” and stuff, so they‘ve sort of dealt themselves into a bit of a bad position.

But they have to do this.  And I think even though these comments are going to get a lot of people riled up and upset, you know, they have to do it, and I think, to some extent, it‘ll work.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at what the vice president of the United States said along these lines.  Let‘s listen to Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There‘s some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn‘t get every single thing they want.  And so those who don‘t get—didn‘t get everything they wanted, it‘s time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward and—but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess the question is tone that‘s been raised by Josh.  What do you make of it, Joan?  Is it a question of tone or message here?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  I think it‘s a little bit of both, Chris.  I mean, look, this is hard for me.  I feel like I‘m in the middle a family feud.  And I love Joe Biden, but it‘s kind of like Uncle Joe is telling me to stop whining.  And that never works.  Have you ever told your kids to stop whining?  It‘s not effective.

And the base is feeling scapegoated.  You know, I don‘t understand—we don‘t see the Republicans saying to the Tea Party, Stop whining, you didn‘t get everything you want, but we‘re better than the other side.  It‘s a crazy-making message.

And I actually disagree with Josh.  I mean, I don‘t think it‘s going to work.  Now, will a lot of us vote?  Will most of us vote, the vast majority of the progressive base, will we vote?  Of course we will.  We always vote.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would—let me get—

WALSH:  But beating up on us, you know, just makes no sense to me.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  This is what I don‘t get.  What do you mean by scapegoating?  Do you mean setting up a blame game situation, assuming you‘re going to get beaten?

WALSH:  I worry about that a little bit.  I don‘t—I‘m not saying that flat-out.  Does that cross my mind?  Sure because I can‘t think of any other reason to do this, Chris.  I don‘t know why you beat up your base.  I don‘t know why you think that a way to motivate people is to tell them that they‘re wrong, they‘re ungrateful, they‘re irresponsible.  So when my mind can‘t really find a good political reason for it, I go to psychological reasons, future political reasons.  Maybe that‘s it, or maybe they‘re just really angry and they need to get it in check because—

MATTHEWS:  I think—I think the last one is probably true, human nature.  He may be just ticked off at the left, at the progressive left—

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  -- the netroots, if you will.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the way the president‘s using the language.  Quote—in a new “Rolling Stone” interview, the president said this.  Quote, “The idea that we‘ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands, complaining, is just irresponsible.  We have to get folks off the sidelines.  People need to shake off this lethargy.  People need to buck up.”

There‘s the phrase, Josh.  I don‘t know, I would imagine—my hunch is it‘s a combination of where Joan says they‘re just angry that the left has been hitting them pretty hard, and they‘re trying to get them maybe guilt-ridden enough to get out there and vote.  I don‘t know why you‘d want to set them up to blame later because that‘s going to be such a catastrophe, I don‘t think you can blame it on a small percentage of voters, which is the progressive left.

MARSHALL:  Yes.  Yes, I don‘t—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Go ahead.

MARSHALL:  I really don‘t think this is about setting anybody up for blame.  I think the issue is, is that the White House needs to have a gut check moment with every potential voter and tell people, Look, this is—this is—this is hardball, you know, the name of the show.  This is—you know, we‘re in a real fight here.  And even though people are disappointed, we need everybody to come and—and—and—and turn out.  And I think that that is a—that‘s a message they have to send.  That‘s a message they should send.

At the same time, the White House is a pressure cooker right now, and they—I‘m sure they feel embattled and I think they do feel angry.  And I think what they‘re feeling is, We wish these people would stop whining.  Why is everybody complaining about what we‘re doing?  These are the people who are supposed to support us, blah, blah, blah, blah.

So they‘ve got a message that they have to send and should send, but I think, to some extent, their own feelings, their own emotions, which, you know—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MARSHALL:  -- are bubbling over in that pressure cooker are—are kind of coming through.  There‘s a little more candor than might be—might be wise for them.  And that‘s—that‘s why it‘s coming out this way.  And you know, you‘re ending up with these—these quotes that I—I think even—even Democrats who really think they‘re right in some way kind of cringe to hear just because, again, the tone is—the tone‘s not right.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Joan, let‘s talk turkey here.  The president‘s extremely transactional, we know.  He‘s not warm and fuzzy about relationship politics.  He‘s not a Clinton, for example.  His whole idea of politics is, I‘ll do this if you do that.  You vote for me, I‘ll do certain things for you, right, transactional.  So should he really be upset at people that don‘t feel that he met the transaction?

WALSH:  No.  You know, I—look, I think Josh is right about the emotion and you‘re right about the emotion, but emotion is a luxury you can‘t afford in this game, Chris, at this point.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  And I don‘t think—you know, I‘m very unhappy, for example, with this slogan, you know, the last election was about changing the guard and this one is about guarding the change, because that also says to people, Hey, we did the change.  It‘s done.  You know, you should be happy.  And we all know the president, first of all—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WALSH:  -- the change is not done.  So you know, there‘s a lot of messaging mistakes going on here.  And I think it—I think it‘s silly to be angry at voters.  You‘ve just got to reason with them and tell them why you‘re better than the other guys.

MARSHALL:  You know, I think—I think part of this—

MATTHEWS:  OK, I want to ask you both—Josh, hold on—hold on a second.

MARSHALL:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you both to finish with this thought, a big thought.  Here you are, a president of the United States with a center-left coalition, with some high-thinking, I think, Republicans voted for you because they wanted to vote for you as a person.  They‘re probably gone, that group.  So you got a center-left coalition you got to work through and get programs through in Congress, a Congress where it takes 60 votes to get anything done.  So you need a very strong center-left coalition to get anything done.  In fact, you need a supermajority, which is almost impossible.

How do you promote, prosecute a progressive agenda, win reelection, hold the mid-terms and do it all, keep your far left happy, keep your middle right happy, to the extent you need it?  How do you do all that and be a leader and keep everybody happy?  I don‘t know how you do it.  You tell me, Josh.

MARSHALL:  You know, I think what it comes down to is—you know, Joan was just saying that this emotion is a luxury the White House can‘t afford.  The White House is saying to its core—you know, core supporters, This disappointment, this sense of acting out, we can‘t afford that.  I think what it shows is when—when—when a political party is on the ropes, everybody‘s emotions are running high.  And you know, no one can afford it, but everybody‘s doing it.

And I think it‘s a time when a leader, the president of the United States in this case, needs to step in and exercise that kind of leadership to get it away from a blame game and get it to pulling everybody together because the Democrats, frankly, can‘t afford on either side right now to be indulging their feelings of disappointment—

WALSH:  Right.

MARSHALL:  -- in either way.

WALSH:  Chris, I—you know, I don‘t have an answer for it.  I don‘t think you can keep everybody happy.  I mean, we both know that‘s impossible.  The hope for this president and the hope for the Democratic Party is that these reforms that they‘ve put in place, health care reform and financial reform, especially, as well as the stimulus, that those three things really would make life better for American people in a palpable way.

Frankly, they haven‘t yet.  Now, they haven‘t for reasons—for lots of reasons, but one of them may be that they were too much of a compromise, which they needed to do to get the votes.  But still, you need to have Democrats who make a difference for their constituency, and that‘s the only way to get re-elected and that‘s the only way to have a long-term Democratic majority.

And that—progressives are worried about that.  Were those things too compromised so that, you know, Wellpoint is saying, We‘re not going to cover kids, too bad.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  You know, that we‘ve compromised too much with the corporations, and they still hold all the cards.  That is an ideological question.  It‘s a very practical political question because if you give away the game to the corporations and then you do not produce change—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  -- your base and the rest of the country will be angry for the right reasons.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the corporations don‘t think he‘s given them anything.  Let me tell you, I—here‘s my view in response to what you both said.  And I think it‘s smart, both of you have said—I respect those views from everybody.  Anybody who‘s passionate about politics, I believe in.  But I know this.  This president has done what we were all taught in graduate school to do, what progressives have believed in from years and years, decades ago.  One, you deal an economic downfall with Keynesian economics.  You compensate for the loss of consumer spending and business investment with government spending.  That‘s what you do.  That‘s what you‘re supposed to do.  No one has had a better idea since the 1930s.

Number two, the Wall Street crowd needed governing.  They didn‘t have any. Now they‘ve got some.  Number three, he‘s pushed for progressive taxation.  He‘s going after the rich.  He‘s not giving them their tax cut.  I think on all the (INAUDIBLE) he‘s put through like Eric Holder in Justice.  He‘s done a lot of things on the environment he‘s tried to do.

He has done what a progressive should have tried to do.  And we can argue about tone and degree of successful politics and personality, but I don‘t know how a liberal or progressive can turn their back on this guy and say they‘ve got something better waiting in the closet because I don‘t know who that person is.

MARSHALL:  Couldn‘t agree with you more, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  And nobody talking does.  Anyway—there ain‘t nobody out there but this guy, and certainly, nobody—no more progressive who could win election for sheriff!  Anyway, thank you, Josh Marshall—maybe I‘m getting mad—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Josh Marshall and Joan Walsh.

WALSH:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll shows signs that Democrats may be closing that enthusiasm gap despite all this talk.  The numbers next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel could announce his decision to leave his post as early as this Friday.  Rahm‘s widely expected to run for mayor for Chicago, and it‘s likely his departure could come shortly after his announcement.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘ve got to keep on fighting for these changes.  You know, they don‘t—they don‘t come out by themselves.  And I hope everybody‘s going to, you know, pay attention and do their homework and find out about candidates.

These choices are going to mean something.  And you got to ask

yourselves, What direction do I want this country to go in?  Do I want to

invest in our people, in our middle class and making it stronger, and our

infrastructure and our education system and clean energy?  Is that one

vision, or are we just going to keep on doing the same things that got us -

-

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was President Obama, obviously, today in Albuquerque today.

I‘m joined now by “Newsweek” and soon-to-be Huffington Post reporter and MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman and Politico columnist Roger Simon.  I want to keep up with you, Rog, keep up with you, Howard.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to this—let‘s go to this whole question—let‘s look at these polling datas here because we got great numbers to show you right now.  And this is what we call the generic poll, of course, guys, which is how people are going to vote party-wise in the coming election.  Here it is, party preference.  Republicans lead right now only 3 points, 46 to 43.  They were up 9 points, 49 to 40, as recently as August.  So it‘s down to—these are likely voters, by the way.  This is a very good poll for Democrats.  Thirty-seven percent people are positive towards Democrats right now, and that‘s higher than the support for either Republicans or Tea Partiers.

What do you make of that, guys?  I want to start with Howard on that one.  This sense of closure coming in now, where Democrats are getting much better off relatively to where they were?

HOWARD FINEMAN, “NEWSWEEK,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s a sense of closure, Chris.  I think it‘s a sense of opening up and more attention being paid to the Republican candidates.  You know, a month or two is still a lifetime in politics, and what happened is that in places like Pennsylvania, where I was yesterday, Pat Toomey, the Republican nominee, very strong with the base of the Republican Party, but very conservative on fiscal matters.  And the question is whether that‘s Pennsylvania or not.

You know, Rick Santorum was a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, but he‘s very conservative, but he stressed cultural issues, which play in Pennsylvania.  Toomey, on the other hand, is a Club for Growth, small government conservative, cut taxes, cut government, questioning Social Security, questioning social programs and Medicare and Medicaid.  That‘s really not Pennsylvania, which likes its government, for the most part.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  So what Joe Sestak is doing to close the race there is less important than the fact that people are focusing on Toomey.  Who is Toomey exactly?  What are—what is he saying?  What is he saying about Social Security?  What is he saying about roads?  What‘s he saying about the things that, frankly, Pennsylvanians kind of like because it‘s a big industrial, generally moderate state.  I think that‘s what‘s happening in place after place.  The focus on the Republican conservatives is what‘s bringing the Democrats back.

MATTHEWS:  Roger, we‘re going to have Jack Conway from Kentucky on in a minute, and the same thing happening there, the questions about the views towards drug legality on behalf of Rand Paul, supporters with racist backgrounds giving him money.  Those questionings getting asked right now in the closing stretch.

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM:  Right.  And Howard‘s point is a good one.  Every year, we say all politics is local until we get to the mid-terms and then we say, No, it‘s national.  It‘s about whether we like the president or not.  In fact, it is about a lot about local races, individual candidates, candidates with skeletons in their closets that we never knew about before, or candidates who don‘t really bond well with people, or candidates who just have positions that people don‘t like.  That‘s the good part for the Democrats, individual races where Democrats might do better than Republicans.

The bad news is, when you look at your poll and you look at the parties that people have good feelings about, and you add the Republicans to the Tea Party, you get 61 percent of the nation who don‘t like Democrats.  That‘s still a mountain for the Democrats to climb and it‘s a big mountain.  And even though they have closed on the generic ballot, they‘re still trying to convince people, persuade people that they should be rewarded, that they have done something good for the country and credible, and they ought to get another two years or six years.

MATTHEWS:  Well, speaking of President Obama, he has to deal with the problem of people out there still spreading the rumor that he‘s not the religion he says he is.  Here he is in Albuquerque today talking about his Christian faith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Mother Teresa answered it in an article and I was going to ask you the same, because I loved her answer.  The first one is:  Why are you a Christian?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You know, I‘m a Christian by choice. 

You know, my family didn‘t—you know, frankly, they weren‘t folks that went to church every week.  My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn‘t raise me in the church. 

So I came to my Christian faith later in life.  And it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Howard, I—I completely understand that thinking, because I was raised in one religion, Roman Catholicism.  I was lucky to have it handed to me, basically, by my parents.

But he talks about being raised in an atheist family, basically, for

all practical purposes, and trying to find his religious faith.  And he did

I just would hate this to have this be called a headline, because we have known this about him for a long time.  And now he‘s forced to come out with it.  And I think some adversarial media will now say he‘s saying things he—that are new to us. 

There‘s nothing new here.

ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEPOLITICO.COM:  Well—I‘m sorry.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  No, I don‘t think there‘s anything new particularly, Chris.  If you have read his autobiography or know anything about him, you basically knew that.

But, sure, people will take potshots.  They will say, well, this raises more questions than it answers.  You know, who are his parents?  What did his parents believe or not believe as a matter of fact?

You know, and when he says that he found—he accepted Christianity, became a Christian, he talks about it in a way that frankly is not the way that born-agains talk about it.  Now, he doesn‘t have to talk about it that way.  Lord knows he doesn‘t.  But if he‘s trying to reach or explain himself to the Bible Belt—and I don‘t know that he is—that‘s not going to do it, because that‘s not the way they talk about it.

And maybe it doesn‘t matter.  We will see.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  Let me take a pots—let me take a potshot about this. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  I mean, did he really have to throw his family under the bus to make this point? 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  I mean, you know, his family didn‘t go to church, but he went to church.  To me, this is the worst thing he‘s done since comparing his grandmother to Reverend Wright to make a point about how everybody—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, come on.  You‘re wrong. 

SIMON:  No.  I mean, this disturbs me.  How far do we go in politics to get a few extra votes?  I mean, he‘s a Christian.  Fine.  Say he‘s a Christian.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I don‘t agree with that.  I don‘t agree with that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t agree with that at all, not at all.

FINEMAN:  I don‘t agree with that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Because I know his background was—his mother was kind of a hippy.  His mother wasn‘t—she was a free thinker.  She wasn‘t a churchgoer.  That‘s all he‘s saying.  He wasn‘t saying his mother wasn‘t spiritual.  He was building around—look, let‘s go to Bill Clinton, a guy who knew how to handle the Bible Belt. 

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He was liked, according to this new poll we got out tonight, by more than half the voters overall.  He‘s got very good numbers relatively for a Democrat among Republicans.  And he cleans up among independents, overwhelming numbers among independents. 

Your thoughts, Howard, then Roger. 

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s absolutely startling.  And what‘s amazing about it is how it contrasts with Barack Obama‘s numbers among independents.

And Roger was talking about the overall shape of this fall‘s election, and Roger is absolutely right.  And the reason why he‘s right is because of independents abandoning Barack Obama in droves.  And it‘s sort of like those people have a residual feeling of affection somewhere for the Democratic Party, but right now it‘s not for Obama, so they have transferred it back to Bill Clinton. 

Bill Clinton is the—

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  In a way, Bill Clinton is the leader of the—it‘s a really odd thing, where Bill Clinton is still the leader of the Democratic Party, and Barack Obama, who got elected as an outsider, is once again an outsider in his own party. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said. 

Roger? 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  I agree with almost all of that, except one small point I would like to make. 

One reason Bill Clinton is doing so well now is that he‘s not viewed as a political figure anymore.  He‘s viewed as this philanthropist, this man who‘s raising hundreds of millions of dollars to, you know, cure AIDS, to solve environmental problems, things that are not especially political. 

Sure, he‘s going to go out on the trail for Barack Obama, but I might

I think, once he does, you might see those figures shift a little. 

FINEMAN:  Well, I hate to disagree with Roger—boy, we are really disagreeing a lot—but I haven‘t seen the poll numbers on that.  I can‘t imagine that there‘s anybody in the United States who doesn‘t still regard Bill Clinton as a political figure. 

Bill Clinton oozes politics out of every pore.  And that‘s what made him infuriating, but what also makes him charming, and also what makes him able to explain in kitchen-table language what Barack Obama can‘t always seem to do.  And it‘s a fascinating thing.  It‘s a mixed blessing for Obama. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re going to tag-team Roger here. 

Roger, I have got to ask you this.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Roger, why, if he‘s not seen as a politician, is there such a differential between the vote he‘s getting in our poll, the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll, now, the overwhelming support he‘s getting from independents, and the roughly 20 percent he‘s getting from Republicans?

That‘s a political differential.  Why is he so popular among independents, as opposed to Republicans, if he‘s not seen as a political figure?

SIMON:  Well, independents are more likely to see him as a nonpolitical figure.

FINEMAN:  And they like nonpolitical figures.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  And they like nonpolitical figures.  And they change their minds more than people who are Republicans always and Democrats always. 

These are people who are used to viewing people differently.  And I have got to say I saw Bill Clinton on “David Letterman” not long ago.  And Bill Clinton said that he had just been in Nevada campaigning for a candidate, didn‘t say Harry Reid, didn‘t say a Democrat.  He went out of his way just to be this neutral figure making a point about solar energy and wind energy. 

That‘s why he brought up Nevada as he made the point.  I tell you, this is a guy who has left to a large degree politics behind him, even though those of us in the business will always see him that way. 

MATTHEWS:  Does that mean you believe that Hillary Clinton doesn‘t harbor ambitions down the road?  Because if she does, then you would think he does. 

SIMON:  Oh, I would think Hillary Clinton would love to be president of the United States. 

And I think, if you take a look at what Bill Clinton‘s advice to Barack Obama actually was, a lot of it was payback for the last election.  It‘s not very kind stuff.  It‘s:  Embrace people‘s anger for you.  Just embrace it and admit it, and then go on from there. 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  Well, this is a guy who didn‘t embrace people‘s anger until he had to take a blood test and we produced, you know, the little blue dress.

I mean, and Barack Obama see—doesn‘t see that he did anything wrong and needs to apologize for it.  He doesn‘t see himself as Bill Clinton.  He sees himself as a guy who has done the best he could for two years, and now is getting out there trying to tell his story. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m with you on that one, Roger. 

Thank you, Howard Fineman.

I love this fisticuffs here of Howard Fineman. 

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON:  Well, these are genteel fisticuffs.  These are genteel fisticuffs. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMON:  I love Howard. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m waiting for you—

FINEMAN:  Likewise, Roger. 

MATTHEWS:  Howard Fineman, soon to be at Huffington Post, but always thinking himself to some extent as a “Newsweek” guy. 

Anyway, thank you Roger Simon.

Thank you, Howard Fineman. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Sarah Palin wants to be taken seriously, but is this “Dancing With the Stars” appearance of her a step too far into the limelight?  Stick around for that where it belongs, in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching it, HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Self-proclaimed mama grizzly, Sarah Palin, was front row on “Dancing With the Stars” last night to support her daughter Bristol.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “DANCING WITH THE STARS”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sarah, great to have you here. 

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, I know, usually, you‘re very bashful about giving your opinion about things.  But how do you think the show is going so far?

PALIN:  This is amazing.  It‘s so exciting.  And it‘s great to see all this courage and joy and exuberance by every dancer.  It‘s awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And what do you think about those three? 

PALIN:  Oh, the judges are awesome.

OK.  Now, it‘s like before a hockey game.  You‘re not going to chew out the refs before your team is up to—up on the ice.  So, they‘re great. 

You guys are doing great. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right. 

PALIN:  OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right. 

And your favorite dancer so far? 

PALIN:  So far—oh, my goodness.  They‘re all amazing.  They really are.  This is great.

(CROSSTALK)

PALIN:  Bristol is not up yet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, that‘s true.

PALIN:  But Bristol the pistol, yes, that‘s who we‘re rooting -- 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Bristol, her daughter, finished in the top three.  I wonder, however, whether all this celebrity television is helping to boost the seriousness of which—with which we view her mother. 

Next, Jon Stewart and Bill O‘Reilly found common ground last night on the subject of Glenn Beck.  Interesting stuff here in the intramural department.  Here they are on “The Daily Show.”

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

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  So, I wanted to come on the “Glenn Beck” program with my book, and they wouldn‘t—they wouldn‘t have us. 

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  They don‘t know who you are. 

STEWART:  I know.  But we called.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  We called over.

O‘REILLY:  I told Beck, I said, have Stewart.  He‘s pretty funny once in a while. 

STEWART:  He said, no go. 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘REILLY:  He doesn‘t know who you are. 

STEWART:  I would love to have a conversation with him. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘REILLY:  With Glenn Beck?

STEWART:  I would love it.

O‘REILLY:  Nobody can. 

STEWART:  We could do like an hour.

O‘REILLY:  No, he‘s in a sealed room. 

STEWART:  No.  Is that true? 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘REILLY:  No.  Nobody can talk to him. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART:  Is he like the bubble boy of FOX News? 

(LAUGHTER)

O‘REILLY:  They just let him out to do the one—he does the radio.  He goes back in a sealed room.  They let him out for TV, and then he goes back.  You can‘t see him.  He‘s like Elvis and Howard Hughes.  You can‘t. 

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  O‘Reilly declined an invitation to attend next month‘s Rally to Restore Sanity hosted by Stewart and Colbert.  He said he would like to see Stewart and Colbert stand on their own four feet.

Now, does that mean they each have two feet or that they are four-legged animals?  Can‘t tell here. 

Now to tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Congressional lawmakers are in a rush to finish government business ahead of recess next Friday.  They‘re also in a rush to raise as much cash as possible.  How many House fund-raisers will be held in these crucial two weeks?  Politico tells us 400.  It‘s a mad crash for cash -- 400 fund-raisers in two weeks, tonight‘s nice-to-know-who‘s-paying-for-all-this “Big Number.” 

Up next:  The Democrat running against Tea Party favorite Rand Paul in Kentucky, Jack Conway, he‘s making a strong close out there in Kentucky.  And he‘s coming here in a minute. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

By the way, we‘re in Belfast, Northern Ireland, right now, where I‘m traveling with former President Bill Clinton. 

Back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKIE DEANGELIS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Jackie DeAngelis with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks rebounding in a 120-point swing today to finish solidly higher, the Dow Jones industrial climbing 46 points, the S&P 500 adding five, and the Nasdaq tacking on nine points. 

Stocks started lower on a larger-than-expected drop in consumer confidence, but it turned around after before midday.  Apple shares recovering from a drop of nearly 6 percent on rumors top exec Tim Cook would be leaving to take over Mark Hurd‘s spot at H.P.  Analysts shot down those rumors, saying Cook is the CEO Steve Jobs‘ heir apparent. 

Walgreens surging more than 11 points on strong earnings boosted by robust pharmacy sales.  Farm products provider Monsanto plunging 8 percent on disappointing results for its new corn seed.

And, Chris, borrowing costs for Ireland spiked today on reports its credit rating might be cut again due to the growing cost of recapitalizing the nationalized Anglo Irish Bank.

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, the latest Kentucky poll shows a tight Senate race between Republican Rand Paul, the Tea Partier, and Democrat Jack Conway, who is the attorney general of the state.  Paul leads 49-47, which is nothing practically, in the new Survey USA poll.  It‘s a robo-poll.

But we‘re joined now by the man himself, Jack Conway, attorney general of Kentucky.

General, thank you for joining us. 

I have got a couple points.  You have been hitting this guy, Rand Paul, on a couple issues I think are serious business.  Is he getting money from racists?  hand should he send it back? 

JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, good evening to you, Chris. 

And we—we called on him a few days ago to return contributions that he received from white separatists.  It‘s just too painful an issue for him not to return the contributions.  And I think if you‘re in public life, you ought to take a look at those who are contributing to you. 

And it calls to mind the fact that Rand Paul has had to dismiss some staffers because of some comments they have made online.  Everyone seems to remember the 20 painful minutes he had on this very network where he rejected fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act. 

So, I think it‘s on Rand Paul to make certain that he would return contributions from people who have associations with white separatist organizations. 

MATTHEWS:  Does he have a personal problem in that regard, civil rights, personal problem? 

CONWAY:  I don‘t know.  I have to let others judge Rand Paul.  It just seems to me that—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re running against him.  Let me judge it.  You have to judge him.  Do you think he has got a problem or not?  Because you‘re running on this issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is it an issue about his personal character, or what? 

CONWAY:  Well, I think it‘s an issue, he just doesn‘t get Kentucky. 

He doesn‘t get our values. 

If you take money from white separatists, that‘s not acceptable.  He seems to have a world view that government should never touch business in any way whatsoever.  And, as attorney general, I‘m all about accountability.  I think we need more accountability, not less of it.

And so I think Rand Paul has to be accountable on this particular score.  And I don‘t think it does us any good in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to have a candidate like Rand Paul who takes this kind of money and then also says he‘s against the Americans With Disabilities Act and other issues like that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  OK.

Would you feel—would you have a bad conscience if you took money from racists? 

CONWAY:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Why doesn‘t he?  I‘m asking you to ask him.  Does he have -

should he have a bad conscience from taking money from racists?

           

CONWAY:  Yes, he should. And he should return it.

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s a character issue.

Let me ask you about this drug use.  I know he‘s a libertarian, and all of us have talked about this since we grow up, especially people of my generation.  Should there be certain drugs that we don‘t consider criminal violations?  We don‘t really use the full force of the law against people.  Some people have this view about marijuana use.

What is his position, as you understand it on drug use?  Apparently, he has a somewhat libertarian view on that subject, which you, I think, are arguing is not a Kentucky view.

CONWAY:  Exactly.  He seems to think that all drug issue should be left to the local level and it‘s up to the states to decide what they criminalize and don‘t criminalize.  But in Kentucky, we have a peculiar problem with prescription pills being used for off-label purposes.  It‘s an epidemic with OxyContin and hydrocodone and other drugs in eastern Kentucky.

And, in fact, Harold Rogers, a Republican, has brought in a lot of

federal money to try to combat the issue, which I support.  But Rand Paul

has stood up and said the drugs aren‘t a pressing issue and he doesn‘t want

any federal report for treatment or for interdiction.  It‘s not about being

tough on drugs—I mean, as attorney general, I think we should treat

criminals like criminals, but it‘s about being smart on it.  And this isn‘t

this isn‘t an issue that Kentucky can tackle alone.

           

MATTHEWS:  You‘re attorney general.  Should people be arrested for smoking marijuana in Kentucky?

CONWAY:  I think so.  Absolutely.  It‘s against the law.

MATTHEWS:  And should they be put in prison?

CONWAY:  Well, you know, a first-time offense with small amount, I think we can incarcerate people for more serious offenses.  I mean, first time, non-violent drug offenses, I think we have to look at treatment and we have to look at education and other options.  We can‘t just incarcerate our way out of this problem.

But, as attorney general, I will enforce the drug laws.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask about this election.  It seems like you‘ve got a real shot in the next month.  I want you to talk to voters out there.  We‘ve had a big fight, I hear it all over my network about where people on the what you called progressive left activists, Netrooters, people like that who pay attention to programs like this, they may be a small minority, but they make a lot of noise.

My question to you is: Should they be angry at President Obama or should they be thrilled that they‘re lucky to live in a time we have a progressive president when most Americans hardly can remember a progressive president back to Roosevelt?

CONWAY:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m serious.  Who‘s the last progressive president?

CONWAY:  Well, on some things, Bill Clinton was progressive.  On others, he was moderate.  And on others, he can be conservative.  So, I kind of eschew labels.

MATTHEWS:  But he was—he was a moderate.  He was a moderate Democrats.

CONWAY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s why he was successful.

CONWAY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But with this president, I think is a progressive.  So, why the progressives mad at him?

CONWAY:  I don‘t know.  I think they expected too much too early.  And, obviously, this president is trying to deliver on a number of key initiatives.  And, obviously, governing is tougher sometimes than campaigning.

But what‘s happening in Kentucky is we‘re surging because, you know, we‘re putting Kentucky first and we‘re talking about issues that are important to Kentuckians.  And the rationale for Rand Paul‘s candidacy—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CONWAY:  -- is falling apart.  He‘s talked about term limits but he won‘t apply ‘em to himself.  You know, he has talked about—I‘ve taken—

Chris, I‘ve taken a whole lot of hits from Karl Rove‘s American Crossroads and all these special interest groups.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  He‘s after you.

CONWAY:  He‘s after me and I hope some of your views would go to ConwayFightFunds.com and help us out.

But we‘ve learned here recently that Rand Paul is now calling for $2,000 deductible for every recipient of Medicare.  He‘s not going to win this health care argument by putting forward positions like that.  So, the rationale for his candidacy is beginning to collapse.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Karl Rove is a negative influence on American life?

CONWAY:  I do.  I do.  As someone who‘s taking about $1 million worth

of special interest money that is coming, 91 percent of it, coming, I

think, from three billionaires and coming in and running ads in the

Commonwealth of Kentucky, claiming that I have cut half a trillion dollars

--

           

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I got a tough one for you.  I got a tough one for you. 

And I don‘t know where you‘re going to stand on this.

We got reports—I got reports over the weekend that your senior senator, Mitch McConnell, has been personally holding up issuing subpoenas to the oil company, BP in particular, for its role in the BP disaster.  They—Mitch McConnell does not believe in a serious investigation of BP.

Is he in the tank with BP?  I can‘t think of another reason why he doesn‘t want a serious investigation of an environmental catastrophe.  Your thoughts.

CONWAY:  Well, I can‘t—I can‘t think of another reason, either.  I mean, I believe in accountability.  And I‘m in—

MATTHEWS:  Is he in the tank with the oil industry?

CONWAY:  It seems—

MATTHEWS:  Is he in the tank with the oil industry?

CONWAY:  Well, it seems like he is, because I‘ll tell you what, Chris, it seems like he‘s fighting and he‘s to push this on past the elections and not allow Bob Graham and his committee, which has to report in July, not allowing them to have subpoena power.  They ought to have subpoena power to get at the bottom of what happened and make certain it never happens again.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s one good reason for you to get elected right there.

Thank you, Jack Conway.

CONWAY:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  We need attorney generals who go after the bad guys and know the power of a subpoena and putting people in the box and under oath so they can‘t squirm away from it again.  I‘m serious.

CONWAY:  Well, thank you very much.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: the one and only P.J. Clark not P.J. Clark, that‘s a restaurant in New York.  P.J. O‘Rourke, he‘s probably been to P.J.  Clark‘s.  His new book is called, and I totally don‘t agree with it, “Don‘t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards.”  Not voting does it.

This is HARDBALL, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Crist may be fading a bit in that race in Florida, but his independent Senate campaign got a boost from a big name Democrat, former U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, who calls himself a fire-breathing liberal, endorsed Crist over the Democrat in the race, Kendrick Meet.  Crist is behind Republican Marco Rubio, but he‘s hoping more big-named Democrats coming out for him will marginalize Meek and make him essentially the Democrat in the race.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

Here to give his take on the madness of this election season is P.J.  O‘Rourke, who has a new book out called “Don‘t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards.”

Well, I can say words like that when you‘re on, because I‘m merely quoting your book.

P.J. O‘ROURKE, AUTHOR, “DON‘T VOTE”:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  P.J., why are you hiding up in—why are you hiding in New Hampshire, a state that‘s so anti-government?  That Tip O‘Neill once says, tell me they don‘t even like parks up there.

O‘ROURKE:  You just said it all.  You explained it for me, huh?  But, you know, as a matter of fact, it was—it was the conventional Republicans that won the primaries up there, not the Tea Party candidates.  So, go figure.

MATTHEWS:  And how did you vote?  How did you vote?  As a live free or die Republican up there, how did you vote in that primary?

O‘ROURKE:  I voted the Tea Party candidate—

MATTHEWS:  With the establishment or with the Tea Party?

O‘ROURKE:  I voted the Tea Party candidate except for Charlie Bass, because he‘s my friend, he‘s my good friend and he‘s my neighbor, and I owe him money.  I think he owes me money, I can‘t remember.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the most brilliant satirist.  You are the greatest satirist in the world and I don‘t know you satirize the Tea Party movement, which is already by itself a satire of everything that‘s going on.

O‘ROURKE:  Oh, Chris.  Come on.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at one of your competitors.  Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Bill Maher—

O‘ROURKE:  You‘re a populist.  You‘re a populist, right?  How can you hate the people and be a populist?  I mean, you‘re a progressive—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m only—

O‘ROURKE:  You want the people to address—

MATTHEWS:  I‘m narrating.

O‘ROURKE:  Go ahead.  I‘m sorry.

MATTHEWS:  Take a look.  Let‘s—here‘s one of your opponents.  Here‘s Bill Maher going after Christine O‘Donnell.  I want you to add to something, the icing to this cake.

O‘ROURKE:  OK.  Be glad to.

MATTHEWS:  And the question was, something she said—something she said back in 1998 that‘s come back to haunt her.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE:  You know what? 

Evolution—evolution is a myth, and even Darwin can‘t spell—

BILL MAHER, TV HOST:  Even is a myth?

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  You know what?

MAHER:  Have you ever looked at a monkey?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, then, why aren‘t they—why aren‘t monkeys still evolving into humans?

MAHER:  It takes a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think that‘s the open question, P.J., why aren‘t monkeys still evolving in front of our face.  I mean, she says, if you‘re looking at a monkey and it‘s not turning into your little brother, then it obviously wasn‘t true.  That‘s her point.

O‘ROURKE:  I‘ve got some—I‘ve got some problems with evolution myself—I mean, because I look around at, say, Democrats and say, that‘s evolved?  You know, I would say it‘s going in the other direct, you know?

MATTHEWS:  Well, about your friend Sharron Angle out in Nevada, who says she wants Second Amendment remedies—that‘s her phrase—if you don‘t like the way Congress voted last week.  Second Amendment—didn‘t Lee Harvey Oswald have a Second Amendment remedy?  Do you what we‘re talking about here?

O‘ROURKE:  Second Amendment remedy sounds like, you know, some sort of soprano sort of euphemism there, I got to say.  But, you know, my attitude is, let‘s elect some crazy people because we‘ve tried it with sane people, and it really didn‘t work.  And so, let‘s—you know, what‘s the alternative?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to know the alternative because I like you, one night, Tony Snow and I laughed at you when you‘re doing “Parliament of Whores,” one of your great books up.  I think it was a Republican retreat I was covering.

O‘ROURKE:  It was.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Having a good time at.

O‘ROURKE:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And it was great fun.  But I want to ask you, you‘ve gone up to New Hampshire.  Now, that‘s where people go when they‘re tired of tax-and-chusetts.  They go to New Hampshire.  I always love that state.

Is it possible to get away, the Tea Parties would like to do it, get away from government, get away from big cities and all the complexities of whatever, and just go off and live in New Hampshire?  Does it work?  You‘re there.

O‘ROURKE:  No, it doesn‘t work.  You know, the IRS guy comes after you.  He finds you.  You can‘t get so far off the grid that the IRS can‘t track you down.

So, no, it really doesn‘t work.  You know, the thing with—I would love to be apolitical.  I‘ve been involved with politics almost as long as you have, you know?  And it occurred to me the other day.  And it occurred to me the other day that I‘m having as much fun as a grizzly bear getting a bikini wax, you know?

I hate politics, but you can‘t be apolitical.  It‘s like being a-parental.  Yes, I‘d love to say to the kids, look, yes, here‘s the car keys and here‘s my bank cards, and you know where the liquor cabinet is, and see you when you‘re 30, you know?  You can‘t be a-parental, you can‘t be apolitical, tempting though it is at times.

MATTHEWS:  So, you stand with the president and Joe Biden, get off your butt, buck up, don‘t whine, go out and vote.

O‘ROURKE:  Well, I wouldn‘t go that far.  And I‘m also pretty interested in—that‘s a real gravitas move, giving an interview to “Rolling Stone” there by the president.  You know—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it worked for General McChrystal, didn‘t it?

O‘ROURKE:  It worked for General McChrystal, yes.  But, you know, the president‘s already lost the youth vote, with taking Twinkies out of the lunch and putting carrots in, and wanting to extend the school year—no kid is going to vote for him.

MATTHEWS:  P.J., take a look Stephen Colbert on Capitol Hill.  I think we can‘t top this.  Here he is, they invited him in.  I think it‘s a comedy club, the Congress.  Here he is, Stephen Colbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN:  Now, we all know there‘s a long tradition of great nations importing foreign workers to do their farm work.  After all, it was the ancient Israelites who built the first food pyramids, but this is America.  I don‘t want a tomato picked by a Mexican.  I want it picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Food for you to think about.  P.J. O‘Rourke, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘ROURKE:  As if there weren‘t enough clowns in Congress.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s right.  It‘s a comedy club.  “Don‘t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards”—P.J., thank you, buddy.

O‘ROURKE:  You‘re welcome.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about what President Obama told “Rolling Stone” magazine.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with some hope for progressives.

There is a decent chance this next month the Democrats can snare victory from the teeth of disaster.  Never doubt that disaster looms.  If the young voters have something better to do Tuesday, November 2nd, if the progressive activists become passive, if the Democrats fail to embrace the independents—catastrophe looms.  The Senate and the House could both be lost.  Republicans could gain an iron grip on the Congress road-blocking everything, killing the Obama dream in its bed.

So, this is the open question—not will it be a tough election for Democrats, but more to the heart of it: will it be the kind of crushing defeat that leads to a year of backbiting, that leads to division and ultimately to defeat?  Or will it be an election night outcome from which they can recover and ultimately rally?

This is why the president is telling Democrats in the “Rolling Stone” interview to buck up and shake off their lethargy, why his language is getting tougher, why he‘s saying if people want to take their ball and go home, it means they aren‘t serious in the first place.

There are opportunities for success between now and November 2nd.  The West Coast is looking better for Boxer and Murray.  Conway is making a serious run in Kentucky.  Giannoulias can beat the flawed candidate the Republicans are running in Illinois.  Blumenthal can win in Connecticut if he offers true integrity over the glitz and grit that‘s being thrown against them.  And Joe Sestak, the veteran Navy admiral, can close hard and powerfully like he did this the primary.

Look, the bad guys are gaining.  Yes, it‘s time to hit the metal and drive the freaking car.

See you here tomorrow after my day with Bill Clinton.

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