Guests: Chuck Todd, Jack Conway, Jasmine Farrier, Matthew Dowd, David Corn, Nicole
Kersting, John Yarmuth, Steve Robertson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: From the Senate battleground in Kentucky, let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Leading off tonight: The Senate race here between Republican Rand Paul, Dr. Rand Paul, and Democrat Jack Conway gets nasty. Paul refused to shake Conway‘s hand after last night‘s debate, after Conway questioned Paul‘s religious faith in a new ad. But doesn‘t the U.S. Constitution prohibit a religious test for the Senate? We‘ve got Democrat Jack Conway right here joining us in a minute.
Plus, the state of play. With two weeks of campaigning to go, we‘ll find out where things stand in the battle for control of the House the U.S. Senate. And two Republican candidates, two gaffes that could determine control of the Senate. Up in Alaska, Joe Miller‘s private security guards handcuffed a reporter at a campaign event. In Colorado, Ken Buck compared a predilection to homosexuality to that toward alcoholism. How will such behavior and such talk affect these races? All that‘s ahead.
But first, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate here in Kentucky, Jack Conway.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: We invited Dr. Paul to appear today, and hopes that he will take us up on that offer in the very near future.
Let‘s take a look at last night‘s debate. It was a heated exchange between you, Jack Conway, and your opponent, Rand Paul. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK CONWAY (D-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Values matter, and I think Rand Paul has two questions to answer here tonight. Why did he freely join a group known for mocking or making fun of people of faith? And secondly, when is it ever a good idea, a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god that you call Aqua Buddha (ph)?
RAND PAUL (R-KY), SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, Jack, you know how we tell you‘re lying? It‘s when your lips are moving, OK?
PAUL: You‘re accusing me of crimes. You just—do you know nothing about the process? You‘re going to stand over there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source? How ridiculous are you? You embarrass this race! You‘re going to accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago? You really have no shame, have you. Run a race as a man! Stand up and be a man instead of just calling me names!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Jack Conway, I guess the question is, what was the purpose of the ad? We‘ll show it in a minute, but what‘s the purpose of an ad that talks about someone‘s behavior 30 years—in what may have been a hazing incident. We don‘t know. It‘s very murky. And it raises questions about his religious faith because in the ad, you ask, Why does he want to take away tax deductions for religion? Is he, in fact, mocking Christianity in that organization he joined 30 years ago? Is he saying the Bible‘s a hoax? Do you believe he‘s a man of faith, your opponent?
CONWAY: I‘m not questioning his faith.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe he‘s a man of faith?
CONWAY: I‘m not questioning his faith...
MATTHEWS: No, do you believe he‘s a man of faith?
CONWAY: I‘m not questioning his faith. I‘m not questioning...
MATTHEWS: OK, well...
CONWAY: I‘m questioning his actions.
CONWAY: I‘m questioning his actions.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s let everybody watch the ad and see what they think.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the ad you approved. It‘s running against Rand Paul. I think it questions his faith. Let‘s watch. Everybody decide watching at home. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the holy Bible a hoax, that was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ? Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was Aqua Buddha? Why does Rand Paul now want to end all federal faith-based initiatives and even end the deduction for religious charities? Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What‘s the connection between what he did in college 30 years ago and his position on tax deductions for religious organizations? What‘s the connection?
MATTHEWS: You‘re drawing the connection here.
CONWAY: There‘s a consistent strain with Rand Paul going all the way back from his writings in college to his positions today. There was an article in...
MATTHEWS: What‘s that strand?
CONWAY: Well, let me explain it to you. There was an article in “The Washington Post” last week that talked about Rand Paul saying that women don‘t need equal rights, that we don‘t need protections for non-discrimination, that we don‘t need consumer protection actions. He wrote to his college newspaper, When are two people ever equal?
And you can run that right through in a common thread to his positions today in this race on questioning fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act.+ questioning the Americans With Disabilities Act, not standing up for worker safety protections. There‘s a common thread between his world view in college and where he is today. And I am not questioning his faith, Chris. I‘m questioning his actions. I mean, the president of...
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go through the language. You approved the ad, right?
MATTHEWS: It mocks Christianity, mocks Christ, says the Bible is a hoax. Did you prove that language?
CONWAY: It‘s on the ad. It says, “I‘m Jack Conway, and I approved this”...
MATTHEWS: Well, doesn‘t that question his faith?
CONWAY: It questions his actions. It questions his actions, Chris, because the president of Baylor University—let‘s (INAUDIBLE) facts. The president of Baylor University banned this group a couple of years before Rand Paul got to campus.
CONWAY: He banned them because they were, quote, unquote, “making fun of Christianity and Christ.”
MATTHEWS: Do you think that‘s wrong?
CONWAY: Yes, I think that‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: Is it wrong for a candidate not to believe in Christianity?
CONWAY: That‘s not wrong. But to mock people of faith, that‘s wrong.
MATTHEWS: ... college student to be skeptical about religion?
CONWAY: No, it‘s not, but it‘s wrong to mock people of faith.
MATTHEWS: Is it wrong to speak out about your skepticism towards organized religions while you‘re in college?
CONWAY: It‘s not wrong, but it‘s wrong to mock people of faith. And when is it right, Chris—when is it ever right to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before...
MATTHEWS: What do you make...
CONWAY: ... a false idol that you call...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of her statement more recently, where she says, They whole thing was blown out of proportion. They didn‘t force me. They didn‘t make me. They were creating a drama. I went along because they were friends. There was a sort of a cooperation of the whole thing. I felt like I was being hazed. In other words, it was one of these weird college hazing things. Didn‘t you do anything in college you think is a little strange? Did you ever—were you always a straight arrow?
CONWAY: I don‘t know that...
MATTHEWS: I‘m serious.
CONWAY: I don‘t know that I was always a straight arrow. But the woman went on to say in her follow-up piece, Chris, said that it was sadistic and that she never spoke to Rand Paul again.
CONWAY: And you know, Rand Paul‘s calling on me for an apology. I think he owes an apology and an explanation to the women of Kentucky. I mean...
MATTHEWS: Well, I‘m just quoting her. I don‘t know this woman. Do you know her?
CONWAY: No, I don‘t know her.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever met her?
CONWAY: I have not met her.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever talked to her?
CONWAY: I have not talked to her.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever heard her on the record, legally on the record?
MATTHEWS: Speaking on the record under oath about what happened?
CONWAY: I have not heard her under oath.
MATTHEWS: OK, so it‘s all sort of hearsay by an unrecognized source. It is tricky. You‘re building major campaign push at the end on a claim made by somebody who won‘t come out of the dark, who won‘t say what actually happened in a kind of a public way that could be checked. In other words, whatever she says is the truth, by your standards. In other words, you believe what she said.
MATTHEWS: No, seriously. You‘re an attorney. You‘re Attorney general. You believe this woman‘s claim per se, just because she made it.
MATTHEWS: Suppose she‘s not telling the truth.
CONWAY: I believe this woman‘s claim...
CONWAY: ... and six—and six reputable news organizations have printed this.
CONWAY: The president of Baylor University...
MATTHEWS: ... what she said.
CONWAY: ... has gone on record about...
MATTHEWS: Look, I know the—the story here.
MATTHEWS: But you‘re basically trusting a woman‘s word against Dr.
CONWAY: Because in any number of instances, I don‘t think he‘s told the truth.
MATTHEWS: So you just...
MATTHEWS: Prima facie, anyone who makes a 30-year-old charge against your opponent, you will exploit that for a TV ad. That‘s what you‘ve done here. You‘ve exploited the un-on-the-record comment of a woman who won‘t come forward, as the basis for a—you‘ve said he mocked Christianity and Christ. He says the Bible—should I ask you questions about the Bible, what you believe? Should I start asking you questions whether you believe in the seven days of creation, if you believe in angels? Should I start asking politicians those questions? Personally, I refuse.
CONWAY: I understand.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think I have a right to know what you believe about Christianity or what you believe deep down.
CONWAY: Right, but...
MATTHEWS: You‘re getting into the question, seems to me, Jack—
you‘re asking what this man believes because of this ad. I could play this
well, let me—here‘s Dr. Rand‘s response. Then I want you to react to that. Here‘s what he says about the ad you ran. A lot of Democrats don‘t like this ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now Jack Conway is attacking Rand Paul‘s faith. Rand Paul keeps Christ in his heart and in the life he shares with his wife and three boys. Don‘t be fooled by Conway‘s desperate attack. It‘s shameless, disgraceful, gutter politics at its worse. What kind of shameful politician would sink this low, to bear false witness against another man just to win an election? This one would, Jack Conway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, this is my last question. What do you think of that?
CONWAY: I think that anyone who would criticize us coming forward and questioning Dr. Paul on this, they haven‘t looked at the facts. And these are facts.
MATTHEWS: You want more facts to come out. You‘d like this woman to come forward, wouldn‘t you.
CONWAY: I would like her to come forward, but you know, there‘s an article in “The Washington Post” that just went up that says—where the reporter said, Listen, Rand Paul said this is made up. And the reporters says, It‘s not made up.
MATTHEWS: ... question of context. Look, let‘s move on, OK? Let‘s talk about issues that really matter to everybody watching this program. The Bush tax cut—you basically believe it should be continued for everyone.
CONWAY: I think it should be continued for everyone. I don‘t think we need to be raising taxes during a time of recession.
MATTHEWS: OK. It‘s going to—people—these estimates are pretty well accepted, about $4 trillion, the cost of—what—how do we make that up in terms of the national debt, by spending cuts or other tax increases? Or do we just add $4 trillion to the national debt?
CONWAY: I don‘t think we add to it. I just don‘t think right now is the time to be raising...
MATTHEWS: No, no. I mean, if we cut the tax—if we keep the tax cuts for another 10 years, the estimate is it would cost the federal treasury an additional $4 trillion on top of the $13 trillion debt we have now. How do you deal with that fact?
CONWAY: You deal with it by allowing Medicare to engage in bulk purchasing, which is about $200 billion in savings. You allow—you allow Medicare fraud units to take about $100 billion in savings out of the system. You close down the offshore tax loopholes and those provisions that are about $130 billion. We go back to a pay-as-you-go system in Congress. And we need a bipartisan debt commission that Mitch McConnell once supporter and that now he‘s...
MATTHEWS: Do you support the president‘s debt commission?
CONWAY: Yes, absolutely. But I would prefer to see it in the United States Congress to come back...
MATTHEWS: You‘re—you will be supportive of it when it comes out with its report in December?
CONWAY: Well, I want to see it. I‘m not going to be supportive of anything until I‘ve had a chance to read it.
MATTHEWS: But the idea of a bipartisan debt commission—you like the idea.
CONWAY: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to this question of “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell.” The president‘s in a tough situation as chief executive. You‘re an attorney (ph) and you know it‘s a tough situation. He has to defend the statute, even though he didn‘t like it.
MATTHEWS: What would you do if you were president or you were senator right now in terms of “Don‘t ask”—the courts—it‘s working its way toward the Supreme Court, probably. In the meantime, the Senate has to look at it. What would you do?
CONWAY: I would follow Admiral Mullen‘s recommendation. He said he‘s going to put us on an 11-month course toward ending the policy. He says it‘s wrong to ask people to lie about who they are...
MATTHEWS: Are you with him?
CONWAY: ... in order to—I‘m with him.
MATTHEWS: You want to get rid of it.
CONWAY: I want to get rid of it.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you...
CONWAY: And I abhor discrimination.
MATTHEWS: What—there‘s something strange, a Republican—I‘m now feeding you an easy one after being tough with you...
MATTHEWS: ... because I am going to be tough about this religious...
CONWAY: That‘s fine.
MATTHEWS: ... test issue. The candidate for the Senate running in Colorado has basically come out and said that people are born with—and this is tricky because we really don‘t, I think, know these answers. You‘re born with a predilection towards being guy, like you‘re born with a predilection toward being an alcoholic. Therefore, you can act on it, like you can choose not to drink, I guess he‘s saying—just to extrapolate a bit. You can choose not to be gay in your behavior. Do you buy that?
CONWAY: No, I don‘t. I don‘t. I think we‘re all—I don‘t. I don‘t buy that.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re with nature, not nurture.
CONWAY: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And I—and I abhor discrimination. And that‘s one of the reasons I find it so troubling that Rand Paul questioned fundamental provisions of the Civil Rights Act. And when I was last on your show, we talked about the fact that he took money from white separatists and wouldn‘t give it back when I called on him to return it. He‘s questioned the Americans With Disabilities Act.
CONWAY: I‘m leaving (ph) here tonight with Max Cleland to talk about the fact that we have 12,000 newly disabled vets in the commonwealth of Kentucky that...
MATTHEWS: Well, you‘re lucky to have him in the state. Let me ask you about Mitch McConnell, Mr. Republican in this state. Mitch McConnell has taken a position that he doesn‘t want to give subpoena power to the commission looking into the BP disaster. Why wouldn‘t he want to give it subpoena power?
CONWAY: He wouldn‘t want to give it subpoena power because he didn‘t want—he didn‘t want it to be forced to find out the facts. And my understanding is that that commission is supposed to report back sometime in January, and they need subpoena power and they need it soon to get to the facts and make recommendations for the future.
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s just kill this thing I started with tonight. You‘re not questioning Dr. Rand Paul‘s religious faith, the fact that he attends with his family a Presbyterian church. His wife‘s a deacon. You don‘t question his religious faith.
CONWAY: No, I don‘t.
MATTHEWS: Not at all?
CONWAY: I just question his actions. He...
MATTHEWS: Current actions or actions 30 years ago?
CONWAY: I question his—well, I‘ve questioned a lot of his actions...
MATTHEWS: What about...
CONWAY: ... in the campaign.
MATTHEWS: ... his actions with regard to his religious faith currently?
CONWAY: I don‘t question that at all. I question his actions. He‘s got...
MATTHEWS: Thirty years ago?
CONWAY: Yes, well, 25 years ago, whenever he was at Baylor. Why is it ever a good idea to voluntarily join a group that‘s known for mocking people of faith? And it‘s not about the faith or what you believe, it‘s about mocking people of other faiths.
CONWAY: And that‘s what this was known for.
MATTHEWS: So his—you felt that he was anti-religious at that time and should pay for it now.
CONWAY: I think we...
MATTHEWS: I mean, you are saying that.
CONWAY: I think we have to be held accountable for our actions.
MATTHEWS: Is he qualified to be United States senator or disqualified because of that behavior 25, 30 years ago?
CONWAY: I think...
MATTHEWS: Is he disqualified because of his behavior in college?
CONWAY: I think he has to answer why he mocked people of faith when he was in college. I think he has to answer that question. And I think the women of Kentucky want to have an answer...
MATTHEWS: Are there any possibly good answers, like he was a free spirit and he was questioning...
CONWAY: Why won‘t he answer the question?
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s see. We‘re having on, whenever he comes on.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. It‘s great to have you on. Jack Conway—I thought—I got you mixed up with your opponent.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: With two weeks of campaigning left, let‘s get to the state of play in the battle for control of the House and the Senate.
You‘re watching the HARDBALL campaign tour from the University of Louisville, only on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only reason we‘re here is because past generations have been unafraid. They were unafraid to push forward even in the face of difficulty. They were unafraid to do what‘s necessary, even when things are uncertain. That‘s how we got through war. That‘s how we got through depression. That‘s why we have Civil Rights and women‘s rights and workers‘ rights!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s campaigning President Obama last night at Ohio State in Columbus.
Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re at another campus right now. We‘re at the campus of the University of Louisville.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go right now to NBC News political director Chuck Todd, who‘s up in New York. Chuck, thank you. Let‘s—we‘re putting this race right at the—the hottest race right in the country right now, as far as we‘ve been predicting it, out here between Dr. Rand Paul and Jack Conway.
Let‘s start with the races that you think are dead right now, are over. Let‘s be tough about it.
CHUCK TODD, NBC POLITICAL DIR./WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right now, the four that are—four Democratic-held seats that Republicans are ahead fairly substantially now, are in somewhat of a good margin—Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, and the one that is going to surprise some people, Wisconsin. Folks from both parties believe Ron Johnson, Republican there, has a significant lead now, not quite as much as those other three, but significant enough so that it is more or less off the playing field now.
MATTHEWS: So that‘s a four-seat pick up for the Republicans. They still need six.
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s talk about where they can win those he six to take the Senate.
TODD: You start—let‘s go—I‘ll move from west to east. You start Washington state, California, Nevada, the Pacific firewall for the Democrats. Then you‘ve got Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut. Those are the Democratic-held seats that are in the playing field. And then we‘ve got two Republican-held seats that Republicans have to hold in order to make sure they find six in those Democratic columns. And that is Kentucky, where you are, and of course, this wild card in Alaska.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the Tea Party. We have a Tea Party candidate here, Dr. Rand Paul. He may be the most deepest, most philosophically connected to the Tea Party. He speaks the truth—less federal government, less taxes, less involvement by the public sector in everything, revisiting all the old issues, and even revisited Civil Rights for a while there, deep philosophical. Is that what the party‘s about? Is it really about candidates in the Republican Party basically coming in and saying, Let‘s go back to Barry Goldwater. Let‘s got far right, rethink everything.
TODD: Look, I think when you look at the playing field of candidates and Tea Party candidates and the four, I think, most prominent now—five, if you count Delaware, but Delaware‘s not really a race that‘s in play anymore—but in Kentucky with Paul and Colorado with Ken Buck, Alaska with Joe Miller and Nevada with Sharron Angle.
I would argue Rand Paul‘s probably the guy that‘s thought more about this than anybody else, that he‘s philosophically been thinking about the role of government a little bit longer. Part of it comes from his background, his father, Ron Paul, sort of the original Dr. No in Congress, a guy that...
TODD: ... like, votes against—you know, about shrinking government and really a sort of a—you want to talk about strict constructionist, constitutionalist, that‘s Ron Paul. So I think it‘s fair to say that Rand Paul probably more embodies this movement more than anybody else philosophically.
MATTHEWS: You know, we‘re still arguing about whether Kennedy‘s religion helped or hurt him back in ‘60.
So, I‘m going to ask you, is the Tea Party, net, bottom line, helping or hurting the Republican Party this season?
TODD: I have to say it‘s a net plus. We can sit here, and I can tell you that Republicans may not win the Senate because of the Tea Party, but, without the Tea Party, they may not win the House.
The enthusiasm the Tea Party‘s brought and I think the single biggest thing the Tea Party‘s done is rebranded the party away from Bush. The Bush brand is still a negative brand in the American public, George W. Bush.
But now the Republican Party is not defending Bush. They have totally distanced themselves from Bush. That‘s because of the Tea Party. So, you want to take it all together, in entire thing of what is going on in the House, what is going on in the Senate, Tea Party net plus politically for the Republicans simply because of that branding issue with the Bush brand.
MATTHEWS: They basically are the bridge back to Reagan. You‘re right so much. I never thought of that. It‘s like the Panama Canal, raises the boats over the isthmus, takes them to the other ocean. This takes the Republican back to a vision they like, Reagan, and it does it by relieving them of the face of George W. Bush.
I guess that‘s why he‘s keeping his book from coming out until after the election, Chuck.
TODD: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, it‘s great to have you. Thank you.
TODD: He has been nowhere. He has been nowhere, and you don‘t see Bush anywhere either, notice.
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s been helpful to the R‘s.
Thank you so much, Chuck Todd in New York.
I‘m joined right now by the University of Louisville Professor Jasmine Farrier.
Thank you, Professor.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Let me do to you what I do to really tough customers when I have them on, like Jack Conway.
Does this thing the other night, this ad they‘re running, the Conway ad, that really goes back to this guy‘s behavior in college, his attitudes toward organized religion back then, and possibly his attitude today, is that a plus or a minus or is it a desperation move that‘s going to hurt him?
JASMINE FARRIER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: I think it brings Conway off-message, because...
MATTHEWS: What was his winning message?
FARRIER: His winning message was that Rand Paul does not serve the interests of the majority of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
MATTHEWS: And where does it take the topic?
FARRIER: It takes the topic back to Conway. And I don‘t think that was Conway‘s intention.
MATTHEWS: Because it was considered a desperation move?
FARRIER: Well, unfortunately, for Democrats, I don‘t think that they can hit below the belt very effectively.
For whatever reason, when a character issue comes up, Republicans are able to lob those a little bit more successfully.
MATTHEWS: What kind of a media consultant would say go after a guy‘s attitude towards organized religion while in college, when everyone knows, while you‘re in college, you‘re skeptical of everything?
MATTHEWS: You may not go to church as often as you did before or after. You may not be organized in your life—excuse me, guys—like you are afterwards.
FARRIER: Well, that‘s a good point.
MATTHEWS: You may have an attitude of I‘m going to have some fun now, like Saint Augustine said, I will become a convert later, right? Remember that?
FARRIER: Yes. Well, what I told my students today is be careful what you do in college because apparently, even if it‘s not on the Web, it will haunt you.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that‘s if you want to be a goody-two-shoes.
MATTHEWS: That means you always—I have been with guys who all their lives are sitting around planning, oh, I can‘t do this because it might be against me some year when I run for office.
You really want to hang around people like that in college?
FARRIER: Well, but here‘s the real deal. There‘s three problems here.
MATTHEWS: I‘m just sort of kidding.
FARRIER: I know.
One is that if you‘re going to attack somebody‘s character, don‘t do it out of your own mouth. Have your surrogates do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, he did it with his ad.
MATTHEWS: But he stands behind it right here, he did.
FARRIER: But in 1800, 1824, we had some dirty races, but they weren‘t out of the candidates‘ mouths. If you‘re going to bad-mouth somebody...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe, Professor, that he was submitting his opponent, Dr. Rand Paul, to a religious test, which is denied—you‘re not allowed to do that under the Constitution. It explicitly says in Article 6, no religious test. You can‘t question a person‘s religion.
Was Jack Conway questioning Rand Paul‘s religion when he went back to his group he joined back in college?
FARRIER: No. I think what Conway was trying to do was to point out that Rand Paul may have problematic associations. If he had that connection between his college years and today, it would have been a little bit more effective.
MATTHEWS: Who are you voting for?
FARRIER: I don‘t tell my students and I‘m sorry to say...
MATTHEWS: Well, tell me.
FARRIER: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Tell me.
No, are you a Conway? Look at all these Conway people.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Professor Jasmine Farrier.
Up next: Security guards for Alaska Republican—boy, I have never seen a case like this. Reminds me of Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia. Security guards for Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller arrested a reporter. In other words, you don‘t like the questions, get your guys to come in there with handcuffs and arrest the reporter. I have never seen anything like this.
I don‘t want to use the words that come to mind. Let‘s just stick with the facts. It‘s frightening. What‘s this say about the Republicans‘ view of the media? Get on the cuffs.
You‘re watching HARDBALL “Campaign Tour” out in the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, only on MSNBC.
FARRIER: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, the “Campaign Tour” from the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
David Corn is with “Mother Jones” and Politics Daily. And Matt Dowd is with “The National Journal.”
I got overwhelmed by the crowd out here.
Gentlemen. David Corn and Matt, thanks, gentlemen.
I have seen few things in politics to match what we‘re watching in Alaska now. I want you to look at some B-roll of some behavior by these guys. You would have to think of them as sort of thug-like behavior. These are security guards. They look like Secret Service agents, but they‘re not. They are totally civilian employees, basically, of the Republican candidate.
Now, they arrest this reporter, physically, like as they were a citizen‘s arrest. They arrest the guy, put him in handcuffs, hold him for a while, and then finally are told by the police to let him go. I have never seen anything like this. I don‘t know if this is false imprisonment or what kind of charge you could bring against this guy, but I would lawyer up if I were this reporter.
Let‘s go to you, David Corn. This is Frank Rizzo stuff from the old days. I have never seen anything like it since. Your thoughts?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, it‘s like politicians gone wild, a new video, and I expect to see Dog the bounty hunter by Joe Miller‘s side.
The most important thing—it‘s terrible what was done to the reporter from “The Alaskan Dispatch,” who was just trying to get a question answered.
But last week, Joe Miller, the Tea Party Republican candidate, said that from now on, he would take no questions from anyone in the press about his past.
Now, what politician can say that and get away with it? So, this intrepid reporter was just trying to ask him a legitimate question and he ends up being in cuffs he says for about 25 minutes or more. I hope he has a good lawyer. But I think, more importantly, the issue should focus on Joe Miller and his inability or unwillingness to be frank with the American people. That‘s not what Tea Party people want in their candidates, or is it?
MATTHEWS: Matt Dowd, I guess Tea Partiers believe in less government, but I don‘t know if they believe in vigilante behavior by politicians to have your own thugs, I guess you would have to call them that, arresting people without a license, without being officers of the law.
MATTHEW DOWD, “THE NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Well, obviously, this is a huge problem. And I agree with David.
This combined with last week‘s stuff where he basically said I‘m not going to ask any—answer personal questions, I sort of—I don‘t think Joe Miller instructed people to arrest somebody, but he obviously has an attitude in his camp that is not, at best, friendly with the press.
It‘s interesting to me. Both sides of the aisle I think misread the press many times. I think Republicans—many Republicans think the press is their enemy and they make a mistake on that regard. And many Democrats think the press is their friend, and they make a mistake in that regard.
DOWD: And I think, in the end, the press—if I were giving advice to Joe Miller or any candidate, I would say answer every question somebody has. Give them all the information they have. Be as transparent as possible.
What people want in this day and age is somebody that‘s authentic, not that‘s perfect, not that has all the answers, but is willing to put themselves out there and just be open. And that‘s the problem.
MATTHEWS: Yes. I think this guy‘s getting his press relations advice from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Basically, bring a bunch of guys in. You don‘t like the questions, get rid of the reporter.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s Pollster‘s trend line for Alaska. It shows a tight three-way race. What a wild race it is up there. It looks like it could actually go any way right now.
Let‘s go to this quiet problem with the Republican Party, attitude toward the press. Sharron Angle, no interviews. Rand Paul, certainly we can‘t get an interview. He‘s not interviewing anybody—giving anybody an interview. And now Joe Miller hires basically tough guys to come and protect him from press and if they try to get too close arrest them.
Is this going to work, this dismissal of a free press which is under our First Amendment protections? You will have to call it that.
CORN: Well, what we‘re seeing here with these candidates—Rand Paul actually earlier in the campaign was saying that the media was out to get him. Now, this stuff certainly plays well—I think Matt will back me up with this—with the Republican conservative Tea Party base.
The real question is whether it—what it shows people who are independent voters. Will Joe Miller‘s heavy-handed tactics, will Sharron Angle‘s refusal to take questions from the press, how does that play with independent voters who are not sure what they think about either side?
In Nevada so far, despite her absence from many press conferences and such, Sharron Angle is holding her own against the Senate majority leader, but I—so maybe it‘s going to work there. Maybe it‘s going to work with Rand Paul.
But I think, in the Alaska race, which is tightening up, an event like this can only hurt Joe Miller at this stage.
DOWD: Chris, what I think...
MATTHEWS: Your thoughts on that, Matt? Can this blow Joe Miller out of the water, this idea of Miller time, which means you get arrested for a while if you ask the wrong question?
MATTHEWS: That is worse than time-out in high school. This is time-out from life. I have never seen anything like it. I‘m sorry. I‘m not going to act like this is normal. In this country, you‘re allowed to ask tough questions and you‘re allowed to get smacked back by the politician if he doesn‘t like the question.
But you don‘t have to risk having put handcuffs on your and hauled away into some corner, like you‘re a bad 13-year-old.
Before we get to the answer—I know the answer to this one. It‘s no damn good.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s watch Senator McCain here. Here‘s McCain out there trashing Barbara Boxer. There used to be some rules of decorum in the Senate. Here he is. Let‘s take a look at him there, whacking away here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Barbara Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, most anti-defense senator in the United States Senate today. I know that because I have had the unpleasant experience of having to serve with her.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MCCAIN: So, when you—when you hear her say that she supports the men and women in the military, my friends, she does not, because she has never supported the mission. She has never supported victory. whether it be in Iraq or whether it be in—or Afghanistan or any place else in the world.
Barbara Boxer wants to wave the white flag of surrender and—and endanger this nation‘s national security. It‘s time she went back to San Francisco with Nancy Pelosi.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he managed to include gay-bashing and she‘s a traitor and she ought to be in San Francisco. And he threw Pelosi and the kitchen sink in there as well. He managed to get a lot of crap in there, didn‘t he, Matt?
DOWD: Well, yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of what happened to McCain? What happened to McCain? He used to be a gentleman.
DOWD: For me, John McCain, after the 2008 campaign, he doesn‘t seem to have got enough naps in the course of events over the last two years, because he seems a lot angrier and a lot more bitter.
I think this—that example is an example just like the Jack Conway example that you brought—talked about earlier in your show. When candidates start doing things like that, their campaigns are in trouble.
When John McCain makes that personal of an attack on Barbara Boxer, it means that Carly Fiorina is in trouble in her race. When Jack Conway does that kind of an attack on Rand Paul, reaching back 30 years, it means he‘s in trouble in the race. Both of them represent candidates that are in trouble in their race. That‘s what it‘s a sign of.
And I—listen, I have full confidence the voters can wade through all this, decide who‘s telling the truth and who is not telling the truth. But they‘re both signs of desperate campaigns.
MATTHEWS: What a great guest you are, Matt Dowd. Thank you.
David Corn, as always, a fabulous guest.
Thank you, gentlemen, for both coming on.
That reporter, by the way, who was held by Joe Miller‘s security thugs will be with us tomorrow night on HARDBALL. We have got to hear from him, Tony Hopfinger, about what it‘s like to be taken and arrested and put in a corner with handcuffs on because you dare to ask a question of a candidate in a democracy.
Up next: Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck compares being gay, or at least having a predilection to homosexuality, to being an alcoholic. He says it‘s a genetic predilection. Well, you decide. You decide on this guy.
We will be right back. We will find out how that is going over in Colorado when we return.
This is HARDBALL on the “Campaign Tour” from the University of Louisville, only on MSNBC.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Back to HARDBALL. We‘re on the campaign tour from the University of Louisville right now.
Tea Party-backed Senate candidate Ken Buck of Colorado is getting heat today for his comments about homosexuality during yesterday‘s “Meet the Press.” In his debate with Michael Bennet, he said some interesting things.
Let‘s listen to that debate on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREGORY, HOST, “MEET THE PRESS”: Do you believe that being gay is a choice?
KEN BUCK ®, COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: I do.
GREGORY: Based on what?
BUCK: Based on what?
GREGORY: Yes, do you believe that?
BUCK: Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is.
GREGORY: You don‘t think it‘s something determined at birth?
BUCK: I think that birth has an influence over like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that, basically, you have a choice.
GREGORY: That put him outside the mainstream of views on this?
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO SENATE CANDIDATE: I absolutely believe he‘s outside the mainstream of views on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Nicole Kersting, you‘re with the Lambda Law Caucus here on campus and Congressman John Yarmuth, you represent this area.
I don‘t know what to make of this. It‘s one of those old nature versus nurture arguments. I don‘t know why politicians talk like this.
What did you make of this, Nicole? You‘re openly gay. What do you make of this guy saying being gay is a choice?
NICOLE KERSTING, LAMBDA LAW CAUCUS: I personally would have to disagree with him, but I also think that his choice to put that out there and to compare it with something that has such negative connotations, like alcoholism, put the negative stigma on being gay, whether it is biological or whether that is a choice, I feel that putting it in the same realm as alcoholism or a sin or a moral wrong just puts a stereotype out there that continues to hold people down.
MATTHEWS: What do you think, Congressman? I mean, it‘s an odd conversation because I‘m not sure it matters in the end at what age. People have told me they have known they were gay from the very young age. Other people have told me it took them a while to learn it. I mean, I don‘t know.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: Yes. I think—I don‘t know. People struggle with their sexual identity for a long time. But I have an opponent who actually compared it to obesity the other night in the debate. You know, and there‘s so much lack of understanding of this. I don‘t know why they think that they need to gin up the culture wars as part of this campaign. You know, I think—
MATTHEWS: Why do they keep—why do you think, Nicole, they keep, politically, or just keep going back to the same old issues like same-sex and “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”? They seem to enjoy the issues.
KERSTIN: I think it‘s a polarizing issue and that people are drawing at any straws they can to gain grounds in a political system. But I think that we continue to see over and over the comments are made without any merit, that when he asked why he believed that, he said, because you can choose your partner. He has no scientific backing for it. No reasoning other than that‘s how he thinks.
MATTHEWS: In other words, he could choose to be gay at any moment now.
KERSTING: He could.
MATTHEWS: He can just like that and say, you know, I liked Pepsi for all those years, but now, I like Coke. Just like that.
KERSTING: Exactly. He seems to think that it‘s that way. Like I said, I personally disagree. I know many of my friends and fellow members of the LGBT community disagree with him. But like you said, regardless of whether it‘s a choice or not, that‘s not the essential issue. It‘s continuing to put this hate speech out there and—
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me get the next question.
As a lawmaker and you have to deal with this all the time, to what extent is this debate that has begun up again, about nurture and nature, that kind of debate, is that an attempt to basically justify antigay legislation?
YARMUTH: Of course it is. I mean, we‘ve been fighting for civil rights at all levels now for the entire existence of this country and we‘re still fighting here. We had a big fight here in my district in Louisville and we passed the nondiscrimination ordnance involving sexual orientation. We‘re proud of that. We‘re still fighting. We couldn‘t get a fully fledged into act in Congress last year, even though Barney Frank and many others aggressively supported it.
So, it is a wedge issue.
MATTHEWS: Younger people don‘t know what we‘re talking about, do they?
YARMUTH: No, they don‘t. No, they don‘t.
But they‘re learning a lot. The kids are learning a lot or they wouldn‘t be bullying. I mean, you‘re hearing it from somewhere and that‘s the scary part.
MATTHEWS: So, I‘ve seen sign on campus, Nicole, of warning, the whole concern about how attitudes can lead to really dangerous behavior and it can lead to kids being bullied, it can lead to suicide. In fact, those are the very signs I‘ve seen on this campus today.
KERSTING: That‘s a large concern for myself and the rest of—
MATTHEWS: That‘s called feedback.
KERSTING: That‘s a large concern for myself and the rest of the community, and that is the statements that are being made by people in powerful positions, people who have access to the media, people who have a following and who are looked up to are continuing to spread hate and stereotypes.
MATTHEWS: Nicole, keep on speaking out. You‘re a great guest. You ever been on television before?
KERSTING: No, I have not.
MATTHEWS: I would have been nervous.
Thank you, Congressman. Congressman John Yarmuth and Nicole Kersting.
We‘ll be right back with (INAUDIBLE), Republican chairman coming here to talk about these charges back and forth, here on MSNBC.
Back in a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, a college tour from the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky.
We‘re joined by the chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party, Steve Robertson.
I was just grilling the Democratic candidate for the Senate here, Jack Conway, who is well-represented behind me here.
What do you think that ad was about that‘s been causing all this stir that gets to the question how he behaved in college when he was at Baylor, that participated in this hazing. It looks this organization. What‘s the story about here? What‘s the fight about?
STEVE ROBERTSON, CHMN., KENTUCKY REPUBLICAN PARTY: It‘s really a despicable ad in the first place, the fact that he‘s reaching 30 years into the past when Rand Paul was a student in college. It‘s something in Kentucky, where religion is a very personal thing and it‘s a very important thing to Kentuckians.
And even Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri has come out and talked about the risky nature of what Jack Conway is doing. It‘s a clearly a Hail Mary pass. Local democrats in Kentucky—Democratic operatives are standing up and backing way from this, what Jack Conway has done. It‘s just an atrocious thing.
MATTHEWS: The Constitution says you can‘t have a religious test.
You can‘t ask a person about their faith.
ROBERTSON: Yes, well, I mean—
MATTHEWS: Is that what it is, or is it about his behavior as a college student?
ROBERTSON: It‘s taking it to an all-time low in a—
MATTHEWS: Is it a challenge to his faith? Is it questioning his faith?
ROBERTSON: He‘s absolutely challenging his faith and people of Kentucky don‘t respect that. Faith is important. Faith is important to me just like it‘s important to you. And it‘s really off-limits to go there in a campaign.
MATTHEWS: So, what‘s your candidate going to do about it? What‘s Dr. Paul going to about this?
ROBERTSON: Well, you know, Dr. Paul—
MATTHEWS: He said he‘s not going to talk to them again. He‘s not going to participate in debates again. He‘s not going to shake his hand. Is that—is that a smart way—does that show a skin thin?
ROBERTSON: Well, I tell you, if I were Dr. Paul, I would have lost all respect for Jack Conway when he did that. I‘d probably have a problem shaking his hand. He‘s really taken it over the line. He‘s taken into the gutter and people of Kentucky, even members of his own party, are not going to like it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you for coming on.
ROBERTSON: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Steve Robertson, the head of the Republican Party.
When we come back, I‘m going to be talking to these students and hear what they think. We‘re out here meeting with the students. We‘re going to watch what they have to say.
We‘ll be right back. Campaign Tour continues on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The home here—in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of course of the Louisville Slugger.
This is the second one I own. United Steelworkers of America that make the best. I‘m not sure how steelworks with best, but this is one heck of a strong bat. They give it to me, Chris Matthews.
Let‘s play HARDBALL. I love it.
Let‘s go to questions for students here.
Mr. Eldridge (ph), your question for America or to me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess my question to you would be: what can we do to bring back civility in the process?
MATTHEWS: And your answer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My answer would be for—for us to talk more about the policies and less about the personal attacks and to make sure that we‘re really looking forward and advocating for a much better America, the kind of America that you inherited.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my question would—if Dr. Paul would ever come on your show, like we wish he would, would be—he always talks about cutting the budget and balancing the budget and cutting debt, what would he cut? We need to know what he‘s going to cut because there are programs important to students, important to—
MATTHEWS: What don‘t you want him to cut?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t want him to cut part Department of Education.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Department of Agriculture. Agriculture‘s important in the state of Kentucky and it made you tell (ph) he really doesn‘t get Kentucky when he talks about—
MATTHEWS: What are we going to do about the $13 trillion national debt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know. That‘s why I‘m not running for Senate!
MATTHEWS: OK. What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would a man do that? How is the average college student expected to afford college if we don‘t have student loans?
MATTHEWS: How do you get student loans? You know what they wore were in my college when I went, 3 percent. I bought $2,000. It got me through college -- $2,800 got me through college.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is when is Dr. Paul going to start talking about the people of Kentucky and the issues that matter to Kentucky instead of the issues—federal issues are important. He‘s the Kentucky senator.
MATTHEWS: OK, I‘m going over here. I‘m going to a Rand Paul person.
MATTHEWS: Speak up, young man. Why are you for Rand Paul?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that people are increasingly concerned about the debt and the deficit, the actions of the Federal Reserve are inflationary monetary policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are concerned about their futures. And -
MATTHEWS: I agree. That‘s a good point.
What do you think—why are you for Rand Paul?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m for Rand Paul because I think that when it comes to, you know, Jack Conway and a lot of his ideals, we‘re looking for just someone who isn‘t a career politician. I think, even from the debate last night, he just looked right at the camera and just said exactly that what he practiced. And I think that we‘re looking for a politician who‘s really real and understands what, you know, just the average person—
MATTHEWS: Are you for term limits?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: You are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Are you? Because you‘re against career—if he‘s in there—for how long do you want him to be in there? How long do you want him in there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That‘s a tough question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One term.
MATTHEWS: How long do you want Mitch McConnell in there?
MATTHEWS: You‘re against career politicians, but Mitch McConnell has been in there for how many centuries?
(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)
MATTHEWS: Thanks for the idea, by the way.
I got the cue from these guys for Conway here. What I think is great you got a question, come on up here. Belly up, what were you saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About Mr. Connell or about—
MATTHEWS: Anything that you want to talk about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. If Jack Conway‘s a lawyer, OK, why doesn‘t he invest—
MATTHEWS: Stop looking at that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he‘s a lawyer, why doesn‘t he investigate it? About Rand Paul‘s college high jinx and all of that stuff, and why—and why do they always bring about Rand Paul‘s past? That‘s the only defense. That‘s the only—
MATTHEWS: How many people here would like to be judged by your behavior in college 30 years from now?
MATTHEWS: No, OK. Keep going here.
You, what do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not sure. You put me on the spot. I really had a question for Jack Conway personally.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Ask it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said he wants to work to improve the health care reform, and I want to know if he had any opinion of bringing back the public option, because I know myself and many people—
MATTHEWS: You‘re a progressive?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fairly, yes.
MATTHEWS: You‘re pretty far over but you‘re farther over to Jack Conway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it‘s true.
MATTHEWS: He‘s too moderate for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit. Although—
MATTHEWS: You‘re going to get him elected if you keep talking like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Actually, I‘m going to vote for him—
MATTHEWS: What percentage of this state of Kentucky is progressive
by your definition of the voters?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not enough at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all.
MATTHEWS: So you want him to do things that a majority opposes?
That‘s a Democratic question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes to health reform, yes. I would love for him to go out there and—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s not always popular.
MATTHEWS: When did you first come out for your public option in your life? When did you first say those two words together, in your life? When did you first say “public option” the first time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the question was brought up (INAUDIBLE) change the health care.
MATTHEWS: When did you bring it up? When did you first say it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Public option, I probably said it two years ago.
MATTHEWS: Did you say it before the election of Barack Obama? You did not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MATTHEWS: See, what I have a problem with this people who come up with these demands of Barack Obama that he beat his promises in the campaign and he never promised that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I completely understand that he‘s up against a lot of tough—
MATTHEWS: No. He never promised to do what you guys want him to do because you thought of it since the election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s working on it!
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. OK, thank you. You guys are tough.
OK, thank you, guys. We‘re at University of Louisville. We‘ll continue our campaign tour around the country. We‘re in Illinois on Tuesday.
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