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updated 9/30/2010 1:41:35 PM ET 2010-09-30T17:41:35

Guests: Jackie DeAngelis, James Clyburn, Mark McKinnon, Jon Ralston, Robert Reich, Jeanne Shaheen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Back to college with Barack Obama.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Dublin, traveling this week with former president Bill Clinton. 

Leading off tonight: Mr. October?  Can President Obama recapture some of that old 2008 magic?  It certainly looked that way last night, when 26,000 supporters turned to out for his rally in Madison, Wisconsin, more, by some estimates, than he drew during his campaign.  He‘s back on the trail today again in Iowa and in Virginia, and if—if—he can close the enthusiasm gap, the Democrats may be looking at a sweeter November.

Plus, Sharron Angle‘s habit of denying what she said on tape.  We‘ll listen to the denials and then go to the videotape.  Love this job!

Also, I just spent the entire day here on the Irish isle with Bill Clinton and got a chance to talk to him about America‘s positive role in the world these days and what a former president can get done.  Our new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll ranks him, Bill Clinton, as the most popular political figure in America.  Clinton faced the Democrats‘ collapse back in ‘94.  Can he help President Obama avoid the same kind of collapse this year?

Also, why are Republicans covering up for BP?  Duh!  And who‘s denying subpoena power to the president‘s commission investigating the gulf oil disaster?  Same response.  What‘s wrong with putting the oil folks under oath?

And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the important lessons the current president can perhaps learn from a former one.  All that‘s ahead.

But first, let‘s check on the latest polls, the HARDBALL “Scoreboard.”  Let‘s start with the Senate race in Colorado, where a new poll by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has Senator Michael Bennet up by 2 points over Republican Ken Buck.  That‘s a return there.  Next to Ohio, where Republican Rob Portman has an 11-point lead over Democrat Lee Fisher (ph).

Now to a couple of governor‘s races, starting with Ohio, where things are tightening and Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland is now back in a dead heat with Republican John Kasich.  Finally to Maryland, where incumbent governor Marty O‘Malley opening a big lead over Republican Bob Ehrlich, who he beat four years ago.  We‘ll continue to check the HARDBALL “Scoreboard” and all the big races every night leading up to election day.

Now to President Obama in full campaign mode.  U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is the Democratic whip.  Congressman Clyburn, thank you for watching. 

Here‘s President Obama last night in Madison, Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know times are tough right now.  I know times are tough.  I know a lot of folks are anxious about the future.  And I know that during the campaign, especially after we had already started winning, you know, the feeling was, Well, this is just exciting.  You know, you got those, you know, nice “Hope” posters.  And then there was the inauguration, and you know, Beyonce‘s singing and Bono and—and I know sometimes, it feels a long way from the hope and excitement that we felt on election day or the day of the inauguration.  But I‘ve got to say we always knew this was going to take time.  We always knew this was going to be hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Clyburn that is Barack Obama, the president of the United States, back in campaign mode.  Can he lift the spirits of the party?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  Oh, absolutely.  Look, I‘ve been out there every weekend for the last three or four weeks.  And I can tell you, I was in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware on this past Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and people are upbeat.  They now see us all on the same page.  So the president being out there, the vice president raising his voice, all that is good stuff for Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I can‘t understand, Congressman—I got a lot of respect for you as a politician, as well as a Civil Rights leader, and I don‘t understand how this president goes in when we‘re facing a great depression, he turns things around, he gets us 70 percent back to where we were with GDP, he delivers on health care, the first Democrat to do that since they started promising it with Harry Truman.  He‘s going after Wall Street and the put them under some kind of oversight for once.  And people who are progressives or liberals aren‘t clapping.

CLYBURN:  Well, you know, that‘s been some concern of mine, as well, and I‘ve been making very clear to all the people that I talk to out there we‘ve got to understand that—I‘ve equated it to those days when we were passing Civil Rights legislation.  In 1964, that bill was in jeopardy because voter was in it.  President Lyndon Johnson took voting out and we passed it in ‘64, came back a year later and got voting in ‘65.  Three years later, we got fair housing in ‘68.  Four years, after that, in 1972, we applied the ‘64 law to the public sector.  So I tell people there was four distinctly different bills done over eight years.

That‘s what‘s going on here.  We are doing what needs to be done.  We just can‘t do it all in the first two years or 18 months of the administration.  So I think that we are on the road to a great recovery—

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take—

CLYBURN:  -and I would hope everybody would stay engaged.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at the president last night again at his big rally of 26,000 people in Madison.  Here is the president.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We are being tested here.  The question is, Are we going to have the courage to keep moving forward, even in the face of difficulty, even in the face of uncertainty?  This election is not about what we‘ve done, it‘s about the work we have left to do.  It‘s what—it‘s about what you want this country to look like over the next two years.  It‘s about your future.  So Madison, get out there and shape (ph) it.  Get out there and fight for it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Congressman—Congressman Clyburn—

CLYBURN:  Yes, sir?

MATTHEWS:  -- it‘s a fact of life that positive reasons don‘t always get people to vote.  You need some negative reasons.  Do you really believe, as you said the other day, that if the Republicans get control of Congress and the subpoena power, they‘re going to use it to go after the president‘s birth records, they‘re going to try to prove he‘s a foreigner, and other nonsense like that?

CLYBURN:  I absolutely believe that.  I take them at their word.  I watch their actions.  You know what I always say, being—having grown up in (INAUDIBLE) it‘s not their words, it‘s their deeds.  And let‘s look at the members of that committee that‘s been talking about—the Government Oversight Committee.  You got Dan Burton sitting there.  He is a co-sponsor of the birther bill, you know, the ranking member, though he says that, I didn‘t mean the birther stuff, I meant to look at fraud cases.

Well, that‘s what they‘re saying.  They‘re trying to delegitimize this president.  They‘re calling him a fraud.  So he‘ll be going after these subpoenas with that in mind.  He may not call it a birther, but that‘s exactly what they‘re going to be doing.  And the fact of the matter is, these people feel that they put the Republicans where they are and they will be coming, asking for their pound of flesh, and we‘ll be sitting there, responding to subpoenas if they were to get the power to do so.

I don‘t expect that they will.  I feel good about where we are.  I‘ve been out and I really feel that we are going to maintain the majority in both the House and the Senate, and the president won‘t have to worry about that at all.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, a ranking member of the—number three man in the U.S. House of Representatives, from South Carolina.

Let‘s turn now to Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon.  He‘s a former campaign manager for President George W. Bush and for presidential candidate John McCain.  You know, Mark, it‘s great to have you on.  And I have to tell you—let‘s take a look at some of the wackier stuff that‘s been said by the Tea Party candidates who‘ve gotten nominations for the Senate and other major offices.  Let‘s take a listen to those.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL, ACTIVIST:  You know what?  Evolution—

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Evolution is a myth, and even Darwin himself—

BILL MAHER, HOST, “POLITICALLY INCORRECT”:  Evolution 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?  Darwin himself—

MAHER:  It takes a long time.

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE:  If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those 2nd Amendment remedies.  They‘re saying, My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?  And I‘ll tell you can, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE:  I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I‘m all in favor of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But?

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL:  You had to ask me the “but.”  I don‘t like the idea of telling private business owners.  I abhor racism.  I think it‘s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant.  But at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Mark McKinnon, it sounds like we‘re listening to the Cro-Magnon political party sometimes.  They don‘t believe in evolution.  They believe guns should be used against congressmen and congresswomen if you don‘t like the way they voted.  And we should reconsider the best thing Congress has done in 100 years, Civil Rights.

So what do you make of your political party and the candidates that Tea Partiers have shoved forward?

MARK MCKINNON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I think it‘s problematic in the sense that we‘re sending, you know, a very narrow message to folks out in middle America who see a much different kind of future not only for the Republican party but for America in general.  And I‘m concerned about what‘s going to happen when we need to govern.  I believe we are going to take the House, and it‘s going to be interesting to see where we go on policy because, I mean, those are some fairly extreme examples, but it is clear folks from the Tea Party, for example are opposed to free trade, which is a—you know, I always believed is a strong Republican tenet.  It‘s one that attracted me to the Republican Party.  So these are big issues over which we‘ll have a lot of debate.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MCKINNON:  There‘ll be a real struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party going forward after the election.

MATTHEWS:  But if anybody in the country votes for anybody for the Republican victory this fall, no matter who they are, no matter how sane they are, they‘ll be voting to put these people, should they get elected, in serious committee positions.  They will get authority and power because they‘re with the Republican majority, people like Christine O‘Donnell, should she win, or Sharron Angle, who wants to give guns to people so they can kill congresspeople, I mean, incredible statements like that, a congressman, a Senate candidate who wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act.

These positions—these people will be, as you say, in office.  They will have the power to use their legislative office to do these kinds of things.  Would you vote for any of these people, Mark?

MCKINNON:  No, I wouldn‘t.  And I won‘t.  And I think if their voices dominate the caucus, then it‘s a real long-term problem for the Republican Party.  I think it‘s short-term strategy for short-term gain with long-term implications for the direction of the party.  And I think it‘s drowning out voices of millions of other progressive centrist Republicans like me and millions of others.  And I think that they‘ve got—they‘ve got purity tests and they want to make the tents narrower.  And they call people like me RINOs.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MCKINNON:  I don‘t see people in the Democratic Party calling people DINOs.  They welcome people like Heath Shuler.  So I‘m concerned about the direction.  But I think that there‘s millions of Americans out there who are looking for a voice in middle America that represents centrists, and I think that that‘s an unrepresented silent majority in America today.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Mark, when you‘re with a lot of these mainstream Republicans—I won‘t give away their names because it‘s usually in a back room, in a green room setting or the way to speak somewhere—you hear them giggle at these people.  They think they‘re not just dangerous but funny, absurd characters.  And then they get out on the stage and they endorse them.

Isn‘t there a point at which any political party gets in trouble when it‘s afraid to say what it really thinks of its more zany members?

MCKINNON:  I absolutely agree with that.  We‘ve got to be candid.  We‘ve got to be honest.  And we‘ve got to say the obvious.  And that‘s why I was glad to see Karl Rove stand up and say what was—what was on everybody‘s mind about our nominee in Delaware.  I mean, he spoke the truth, and he got hammered by a lot of folks for saying the obvious truth.  But I think we need more candor, more honesty and need to be straightforward about these issues and not just embrace people just because they get the Republican nomination.

MATTHEWS:  Back in 1965 and ‘66, I remember the Republican Party had different groups, like the Republican Alliance, that brought together mainstream Republicans like Hugh Scott and governors across the country like Romney, senior, and they sort of took back the Republican Party from the Goldwater wing.  Will we see something like that?  Will you lead something like that in your party today, the Republican Party, including its RINO wing?

MCKINNON:  Well, yes, listen, there‘s lots of things going on out there.  There‘s the Main Street Group that Tom Davis started.  There‘s—and there‘s lots more of those things happening.  I‘ve been traveling around the country, and like I said, there‘s millions of Americans out here that want a voice to represent people in the middle because nobody is being rewarded for centrist behavior, they‘re just the hyper-partisans that are running the show.

I‘m looking at an organization called No Labels, Nolabels.org and on Facebook (INAUDIBLE) Nolabels, that‘s going to launch in December that‘s going to have a lot to say about this and I think will be that kind of voice representing centrists out there.  But it‘s not just No Labels.  There‘s lots of other groups.  And I think that‘s the big untold story right now, that the media will see after these elections that the Tea Party is just a very—it‘s a small minority but a vocal one, but there are millions and millions of Americans, more than a majority easily, that consider themselves centrists.  They‘re out there in the middle of America, who don‘t feel like they‘re represented in Congress or by the media.  And I think that we‘re going to see a real independent movement out there for centrist Republicans, centrist Democrats—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

MCKINNON:  -- across the board.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be watching for you.  Mark McKinnon, thank you for joining us.

Coming up: Nevada‘s Republican Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, is caught fighting with her own recorded voice.  Is this crazy?  She‘s caught on tape but denies what‘s on tape on a number of issues where she‘s taken wild stands.  And now Jon Ralston, the most influential political reporter in Nevada, is calling her out for what he says are her seemingly pathological habit, he calls it, of saying she never said something when it‘s already on videotape.  What are you going to believe, me or your lying tape?  Is that it?  Is this Groucho Marx again?  Ralston joins us next with the truth.

You‘re watching HARDBALL from Dublin, where I‘m traveling with former president Bill Clinton.  Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Remember James O‘Keefe, the conservative activist who dressed like a pump in an attempt to bring down the group ACORN?  Well, he‘s back in the news again today after apparently attempting to lure a CNN investigative reporter onto a boat and then seduce her.  The reporter planned to interview O‘Keefe as part of a documentary on the right wing‘s young leaders, but she canceled moments before the interview after she was tipped off to O‘Keefe‘s seduction plot by one of O‘Keefe‘s own staffers.  And some big-name conservatives are criticizing O‘Keefe‘s latest stunt. 

Brent Bozell, for example, calls it “ugly, dishonest, filthy.”

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Harry Reid keeps calling Sharron Angle extreme in their fight for his seat.  Here‘s his latest ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADVERTISEMENT ANNOUNCER:  From World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA has meant guaranteed care for those who serve.  But now, in another extreme proposal, Sharron Angle says privatize it, end the VA as we know it.  When she was asked whether veterans benefits like prescriptions and doctor visits would be covered if she had her way?

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  No, not if you‘re working toward a privatized system.

ADVERTISEMENT ANNOUNCER:  End our promise to veterans?  Sharron Angle, dangerous ideas that put veterans at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Angle was asked about that charge this past Saturday at an event in Reno, Nevada.  Here‘s her response to Reid‘s charge, followed by what she said about her father and handling the VA back in May.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ANGLE:  I said that they could do a better job.  That‘s all I said. 

The VA could do a better job for our veterans. 

And I believe that.  I believe that our veterans fit in that A priority box.  We should be supporting our military and their dependents—

(APPLAUSE)

ANGLE:  -- and our veterans.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ANGLE:  I knows he pays over $800 a month in prescription drugs that we can‘t get through his VA, nor through Medicare.  They just won‘t cover those things.  And I know lots of seniors—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Should—should they cover those things?

ANGLE:  No, not—not if you‘re working toward a privatized system.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there we have the problem. 

“The Las Vegas Sun”‘s Jon Ralston wrote about Angle‘s deny of something we just heard her say, talking about privatizing it.  And he said in his piece—you, John, said: “I‘m beginning to wonder about this seemingly pathological habit Angle has of saying she never said something when it is right there on the tape and so easily retrieved.”

Jon Ralston, as I said, joins us right now from Las Vegas.  He‘s the host of “Face to Face,” which airs on NBC stations out in Nevada.

Jon, tell us about this.  Give us the sense of this.  Here is a candidate who you confront with the fact of a videotape, and what happens? 

JON RALSTON, “THE LAS VEGAS SUN”:  Well, it is amazing, Chris. 

She seems to be suffering from selective amnesia.  Or she is like that Guy Pearce character in the movie “Memento” with no short-term memory.  I mean, we have two candidates in this race who say all kinds of strange things.  And Harry Reid, who has said many inexplicable and goofy things, you confront him, at least he will try to explain it or spin it or paper it over. 

Sharron Angle just denies she ever says things that are clearly contradicted by videotape, by audiotape.  It is as if she thinks we are living in a world 300 years ago, where you can‘t find this stuff. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we have everything this time.  They have Google and every way to check on—here‘s Angle with ABC News‘ Jonathan Karl a few weeks ago, followed by her comments on TruNews Christian radio back in radio. 

Listen for the contradiction.  Together, let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:  The comment

that you made about entitlement programs violating the first commandment, can you elaborate a little bit on what you meant about that? 

(LAUGHTER)

ANGLE:  I don‘t think that‘s what I said. 

(LAUGHTER)

KARL:  You said that they—they turn government into our God. 

ANGLE:  I said that—no, I didn‘t say that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ANGLE:  And this—these programs that you mentioned that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi, pushing them forward, are all entitlement program built to make government our God.  And that‘s really what‘s happening in this country, is a violation of the first commandment. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there she is.  There she goes again, as Ronald Reagan once said.  There she goes again clearly denying what is on tape.  She said that having a government and putting too much hope in a government is violating the first commandment about not having strange gods before you. 

I mean, it is quite a biblical thing to go to—to the mountaintop and find a reason to not like your opponent‘s political philosophy—

RALSTON:  Yes, Chris, this is—

MATTHEWS:  -- and then deny it. 

RALSTON:  Yes, Chris, this is just astonishing, because what Jonathan Karl asked her, he directly quoted what she said.

And you notice—and she does this a lot—she chuckles, she laughs, as if she is recalling some campaign meeting where her consultants have heard this and said, don‘t ever say that again, Sharron. 

And, instead, what she does is she just pretends she never said it.  It is a very bizarre reaction.  Of course, all of this stuff, as I said in that post you referred to, is so easily retrieved.  It‘s easy to confront her with it.  And there‘s so many instances of this.

And the one I remember the best is, essentially, day after the primary when she appeared under the withering interviewers of “FOX and Friends” after she had spent the entire primary saying that Social Security should be phased out, they said to her, you never said that, right?  And she same back immediately and said, oh, no, I want to save Social Security, when she essentially had just said that she wanted to get rid of it a few weeks beforehand. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow. 

Well, here she is.  Here‘s Angle again with Karl, the reporter, followed by her back in January with radio host Lars Larson, a fellow conservative.  Let‘s listen to the difference here, which is quite 180. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL:  When you said, if things don‘t turn out the right way in this election, people may seek First—Second Amendment remedies, what did you mean that?  What are Second Amendment—

ANGLE:  No, I don‘t think that was exactly the way I said it. 

(CROSSTALK)

KARL:  Well—well, you—you—you—you—tell me.  Forget how you—you tell me. 

(LAUGHTER)

ANGLE:  OK. 

(LAUGHTER)

ANGLE:  OK.

We were discussing once again—

KARL:  Yes. 

ANGLE:  In a context of the Second Amendment, we were having a discussion about the founding fathers and why they had put the Second Amendment into the Bill of Rights. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ANGLE:  You know, our founding fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason.

And that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government.  In fact, you know, Thomas Jefferson said it‘s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that is not where we are going, but, you know, if this—this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.  They‘re saying, my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?

And I will tell you, the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Jon, what are—what do her supporter say when they hear these denials of something that‘s right there in front of them? 

RALSTON:  Well, I don‘t—I don‘t think they even want to think about that, Chris.

But let‘s—let‘s not get away from the fact here that these things that we are talking about, each of those sound bites that you played, in and of themselves—forget that she is denying that she said them—each of those statements are so controversial. 

Who talks about Second Amendment remedies and evokes Thomas Jefferson to talk about, because they passed the health care reform, people are thinking about taking up arms?  It is just crazy. 

And so even her supporters, such as Danny Tarkanian, who ran against her and is now acting as a surrogate, they are distancing themselves from those kinds of comments, as anybody would.  And as—as—as Mark McKinnon said, moderate Republicans are running, like scalded dogs, from that kind of statement. 

So, they want to get off of that completely.  They only want to talk about Harry Reid, the economy, Harry Reid, the economy, because they know, if the election becomes about some of these statements that Sharron Angle says and then suddenly forgets, she is going to lose. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to tell you, after all the violence we grew up in this country with, the presidents we have lost over the last century or so, and, you know, starting with Lincoln, all the way through to Kennedy, and almost Reagan, and all the other major political figures who have been assassinated, to talk about basically assassination is what she is talking about here—and she is in her words, as we showed you in the tape: “If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies,” using firepower against elected officials.

People who were elected, we should be ready to go gun them down, it is an incredible statement.  I don‘t see how anybody can vote for somebody, unless they have, well, denied that they ever said it, maybe take it back.

And I go back to my Groucho Marx comment and I say this to voters, who are you going to believe, her or your lying ears? 

Anyway, thank you, Jon Ralston, for joining us with this amazing news about a very strange candidacy. 

Up next:  Senator David Vitter, known primarily for hiring prostitutes in Washington and also back home in Louisiana, finally gets some attention he deserves.  That is ahead in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.” 

First: staying put.

Jerry Brown was asked at last night‘s debate with Meg Whitman if he might for president if voters elected him governor this time, something he did in 1976 and in 1980.  Here is Brown‘s response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Hell, if I was younger, you know I would be running again. 

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN:  But I would say, at 74, whatever it is going to be in a couple of years, I‘m ready.  One more thing.  I now have a wife.  And, you know, I come home at night.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN:  I don‘t try to close down the bars of Sacramento, like I used to do when I was governor of California. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Meg Whitman, meanwhile, has been accused by a longtime housekeeper of knowingly hiring her illegally for the past nine years. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I told her that she knew that, and I don‘t have papers to work here, and I need her help.  I want her to help me get an immigration attorney.  Ms. Whitman just laughed and turn her face to one side. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Meg Whitman responded in a statement today that said the employee had lied about her legal status in the form she filled out.  She said it wasn‘t until June of 2009 that she had learned that the employee was working for her illegally and then fired her.  Whitman says the employee was being manipulated in this case by attorney Gloria Allred. 

I think we‘re going to know a lot more about this in the days ahead. 

Next:  Louisiana Senator David Vitter is finally facing the political music for his hiring of prostitutes, both in Washington, D.C., also back home in Louisiana.  His opponent, Democratic—Charlie Melancon, has raised the issue in the following ad. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CHARLIE MELANCON CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  Today, we explore the case of the senator and the madam in lawmaker, lawbreaker.  David Vitter won election to the United States Senate as a proud family-values politician, but, under the surface, Vitter was battling his own demons. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Things turned public for Vitter when his number appeared on the D.C. madam‘s phone list. 

NARRATOR:  But it didn‘t end there.  The scene shifts to New Orleans, where a former French Quarter prostitute gave an interview exposing details about her sexual relationship with Vitter. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He went in, took a shower, spoke very little to me at first.  He did his thing.  He wasn‘t there 15, 20 minutes at that.  I was $300. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that ad began airing statewide in Louisiana today. 

Up next:  I spent today with former President Bill Clinton.  Can the most popular political figure in America help President Obama and the Democrats avoid losses this November? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A rocky session leaving stocks slight lower—the Dow slipping 23 points and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq sinking about three points each. 

Speculation is heating up on Wall Street that the Fed is about to begin quantitative easing to speed up the recovery.  Big banks paying the price today.  Their profit margins are on the line if the difference between short- and long-term yield flattens. 

The dollar feeling the effects as well, weakening even more against the major currencies.  But, as you might expect, gold prices hitting a record high for the 11th time this month.  And analysts say there is still room for even—for gold to even go higher. 

Now, in stocks, FedEx shares surging 2 percent on a bullish full-year outlook and plans to hike shipping rates about 4 percent in January.  And shares in solar energy companies lighting up today, after an analyst told CNBC that now is a great time to dive into the sector.

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I spent the day with Bill Clinton, the former president, here on the Irish isle, and spoke with him how he has been able to promote America‘s positive influence around the world.  He‘s now the most popular political figure in our country, according to the latest NBC News/”Wall Street”—

“Wall Street Journal” poll. 

And Democrats just can‘t get enough of him on the stump, apparently.  So, can the former president help the current president and his party this November? 

Robert Reich served as Bill Clinton‘s labor secretary.  His new book is called “Aftershock.” 

Mr. Reich. Mr. Secretary, Bill Clinton is over here making a storm on behalf of Irish unity up there, in the north, I should say.  What do you make of his political popularity here at home, with these great numbers? 

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY:  Well, every politician, every Democratic politician, Chris, does want Bill Clinton to help stump for him or her. 

Bill Clinton is the most popular Democrat, running or not running.  I think that‘s actually more important.  He‘s not running.  And that helps a lot. 

But I think also people remember the great economy under Bill Clinton.  People remember 22 million net new jobs.  They remember a lot of prosperity.  They also remember that the George W. Bush expansion of 2001-2007 was sort of a phantom recovery, because that was built on debts, and median wages actually dropped during those years. 

So, Bill Clinton represents really prosperity.  And I think that a lot of Democrats want to be associated with that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think his ability to position himself as a third way, as a centrist Democrat was important to our—I‘m looking at the independent vote.  You probably haven‘t seen it, but in our “Wall Street Journal”/NBC poll just out late yesterday, he is leading something like 4-1 approval over disapproval.  Only one in six independent voters have a problem with Bill Clinton at this point. 

REICH:  Well, Bill Clinton, remember, he famously triangulated in 1996. 

Dick Morris told Bill Clinton in the election of 1996, to just tell the public it‘s better now than ever before, you ain‘t saying nothing yet, the economy is humming very well.  Dick Morris said, don‘t talk about specific issues at all, don‘t try to get a mandate to do anything specific in the second term, just tell everybody things are getting better.

And Bill Clinton did that.  He kept some distance from the Democrats and, obviously, some distance from Republicans.  He said the era of big government is over, remember that?  And so, before Monica Lewinsky—and most people are prepared to forgive and forget on that score—before Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton was doing very well.  The economy, as I said, did wonderfully well.  And so, independents like Bill Clinton.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s doing pretty well in the polls afterwards, too.  But I think, a couple things you failed to mention, one is balancing the budget, which goes over very well with the centrists who tend to be fiscally conservative and also free trade.  He was a free trader.

Let‘s take a look at part of the exchange I had with President Clinton.  I asked him about the Northern Ireland peace process and what it said about America‘s role in the world.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What‘s this say about America‘s influence, positive influence?  You‘ve put the global initiative in areas like Northern Ireland, you‘ve shown the power of, sort of like—you‘re like a one-man peace corps.  What does that say to the positive attitude of people in the world towards our country?

WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I still think most people think that we wish them well and most people know that even when they disagree with particular things that a president does, that we have no imperialist design, we‘re not trying to take their country, their future away from them.  I think that‘s the most important thing.

The United States is too big and we are too involved with too many people for any president to be able to take actions that will be universally agreed to all day, every day and everywhere in the world.  The most important thing is that people think we‘re pulling for them and that we want to empower them.  For example, in the heat of the Iraq war, which was extremely unpopular in all majority Muslim countries, the United States retained high levels of popularity in all the countries of southern Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania, which have huge Muslim populations, because of President Bush‘s PEPFAR program.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CLINTON:  AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria program.  Why?  Because they thought we still cared whether their kids lived or died.  So, they didn‘t like America‘s Iraq foreign policy anymore than a lot of other Muslim countries did, but they had a countervailing piece of evidence that was overwhelming—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

CLINTON:  -- that we still—they thought we were making a mistake but it was a mistake of the head, not the heart.  And that‘s what you want.  You want people to think America‘s pulling for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Bob Reich, let me ask you, Mr. Secretary—do you believe that if Bill Clinton were still president, with balanced budgets, with that centrist approach on trade issues and other issues?  Do you think he would have a Tea Party opposing him?  Would there be a Tea Party?

REICH:  Well, I think, Chris, the problem is that begs the question, there‘s no way we are going to have balanced budgets now or any time soon because of the severity of the great recession.  And interestingly, foreign trade—in fact, the whole principle of free trade has become very unpopular in America, much less popular than it was during Bill Clinton‘s presidency because so many people are afraid of their jobs and they‘re worried about their wages and their mortgages and their savings.  And so, they‘re very prepared to believe what a lot of people on the left and right say and that is free trade is bad for us.

MATTHEWS:  Are you still a free trader?

REICH:  I am basically a free trader.  Yes, absolutely, Chris.  I think we‘ve got to have more trade agreements that have labor and environmental protections in them.  But I think free trade is basically good.

I don‘t think that our problem, our jobs problem, is fundamentally a problem of trade.  I think it has much more to do with the fact that we have not sufficiently educated our population.  We have not got out of this great recession with adequate stimulus and adequate fiscal and monetary policies over all.  I think the Republicans have basically stymied President Obama who, generally speaking, I think, is trying to do exactly the right thing.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Robert Reich.

Up next: why was the president‘s commission on investigating the BP oil disaster blocked from getting subpoena power?  Can‘t they put these people under oath?  Can‘t they call them into court and ask them questions?  And who is behind this blockage?  Who is looking out for BP?

You will get answers ahead.

You are watching HARDBALL from Dublin, Ireland, where I‘m traveling with former President Bill Clinton.

Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “The Chicago Tribune” is reporting that Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias told voters he left his family‘s troubled bank back in 2005.  But he told the IRS he was still working there in 2006.  That enabled him to take a $2.7 million tax deduction last year.  Giannoulias, a Democrat, says there‘s no contradiction and there‘s no suggestion he took a tax break he didn‘t deserve.  That‘s what he says.  He‘s been pounded by his Republican opponent, Mark Kirk, for his tenure at that bank, which lent money to mob figures before collapsing earlier this year.  And this latest issue like won‘t help his campaign.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY NUNGESSER, PLAQUEMINES PARISH PRESIDENT:  BP would say it was the Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard would say it‘s BP.  And we—it became a joke in our EOC that, the home of command, it was a “Wizard of Oz” and got behind the curtain because we never got a name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, testifying to the president‘s oil spill commission.  And his questions may remain unanswered because Senate Republicans have denied the president‘s commission subpoena power.

Here‘s how it went down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there objection?

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  On behalf of other members of the Republican Conference, I object.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Objection is heard.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE:  This is legislation that passed the House, 420 to one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there objection?

DEMINT:  On behalf of other members of the Republican Conference, I object.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So who‘s behind all of this besides Jim DeMint?  As you just saw, it was Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire pushed by—pushed for the president‘s commission to get subpoena power.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

I got the tip on this weekend.  How in the world can anybody deny the American people‘s right to find out what happened, what caused that oil spill in the Gulf?

SHAHEEN:  You know, I don‘t understand it.  This was an unprecedented disaster, 11 people lost their lives, uncounted environmental and economic damages to the people of the Gulf region.  And we can‘t do anything about that, but we can make sure it never happens again.

And that‘s why this bipartisan commission that the president has appointed is so important.

But what we heard from their co-chair, former Senator Bob Graham, and former Nixon EPA administrator, Bill O‘Reilly—or Bill Riley, is that the witnesses are stonewalling.  And because they don‘t have subpoena power, they can‘t get the answers they need.  And, unfortunately, we‘ve requested the Republicans in the Senate to support this request for subpoena power, three times now, and each now they‘ve objected.

I‘m going to go back to the floor this evening and request that we go forward with this subpoena power, a fourth time.  But, unfortunately, what we‘ve heard is that they‘re going to object again.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about this, Bob Graham of Florida is one of—one of the most determined, hard-working senators there‘s ever been.  He‘s got all the faculties intellectually to handle something like this.  I‘ve seen him in action on this show and elsewhere.  He‘s certainly the guy to do this, the person to do this.  It‘s bipartisan, as you point out.

Do the Republicans ever in the cloakroom or anywhere to tell you, do they have any legitimate reason to hold up this investigation?

SHAHEEN:  Well, not that I‘ve heard.  In fact, the individual Republican senators that I‘ve talked to about it have said that they support it.  This is legislation that passed the House, overwhelmingly—

169 Republicans voted for it in the House.  And yet, the minority keeps objecting in the Senate.  I don‘t understand it.

This is something that we all out to be supporting because it‘s important for this commission to be able to tell the American people what happened.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I think I know why they don‘t want to do it, because they‘d like the American people to believe that what happened to the Gulf of Mexico was a technical failure, a failure by a machine.

What they don‘t want to admit it was a management decision.  And I happen to know from my brother who‘s in the business for 30 years, all mistakes are management mistakes.  Technology is tested.

When mistakes occur, protocols are put in place to avoid making that mistake again.  If they‘re not followed, that‘s a management decision—usually based on saving money.

Why can‘t we find out who made that management decision to save money at the huge social, environmental cost we‘ve seen?  What do you think about that?  That‘s what I‘d like to find out.

Who made the management decision to go with sea water not drilling mud, all kinds of decisions to say, “Go ahead,” even though the cement wasn‘t hard?  Each decision was made by a human being.  Can‘t we meet that human being under oath?  That‘s my question.

SHAHEEN:  And that is the question.  And that‘s why we need subpoena power.  You know, sadly, the corporations that are involved here, Transocean and BP and Halliburton, are not giving the full answers.

And we need to give the American people the real answers.  We need to give those families who lost their loved ones and when that station blew up, the right answers, and we need to let the businesses of the Gulf region know why they‘ve taken it on the chin for such high economic costs.  That‘s what the subpoena power‘s all about.  It‘s about making sure that we know what really happened there so that it never happens again.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, it‘s great having someone on the show, a U.S.  senator who is doing their job.  Thank you very much, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

SHAHEEN:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, let me finish with a lesson President Obama can learn from Bill Clinton.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with some numbers.

Bill Clinton now has a 53 percent approval rating from political independents in the United States, a 16 percent disapproval -- 16 percent disapproval from independents.  This for a Democrat at a time the party is under hard assault.

There are reasons for this.  Clinton is out of line of fire right now, that‘s for one.  He‘s a reminder of better economic time for an important other.

But the real reason is that Bill Clinton, like Tony Blair in England, was a champion of what both called a third way.  They were social Democrats who knew the key to political as well as policy success lies in keeping faith with the middle.  Scare off the middle and you lose the country.

You hold the middle by hugging to their main concerns.  You focus on the economy—yes, it‘s the economy, stupid.  You convince people that you want government involvement when and only when the private sector can‘t act.  You do it out of necessity, not out of desire.

If you love big government, you will not succeed with the American middle.

Barack Obama won because most people believe that the Bush administration, led by ideologues, had hijacked America to the course of an ideological war, an ideological foreign policy.  President Obama will face the same rejection by the same political middle if he is seen in the hands of ideologues of the left.

Big things still need to be done, especially in job creation, energy and immigration.  The more he does them and sells them close to the political middle, the better his chances.

Those who argue otherwise don‘t know this country, its history, or its basically conservative gut.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Join us again tomorrow night from Dublin.  I‘ll have my interview with President Bill Clinton.

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

           

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