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updated 11/23/2010 12:00:38 PM ET 2010-11-23T17:00:38

Guests: Pat Buchanan, David Corn, Erroll Southers, Ginger McCall, Steve Cohen, Dennis Kucinich, John Heilemann, Clarence Page

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  What‘s worse, Palin or the patdown?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews back in Washington.  Leading off

tonight: Can she see the White House from her house?  A new poll‘s got her

leading the Republican pack for 2012.  Do we take that seriously?  Does she

take that seriously?  All the outward signs are that Sarah Palin‘s running

for president.  But what about the inward signs?  Is there any indication -

I mean any indication—that this former half-term governor is giving five minutes a day to thinking, to reading, to trying to get beyond the cliches and applause lines into the people who wouldn‘t claim for a second that they‘re ready to lead this country?  Anyway, she knows how to sell the question.  She knows how to milk what she calls the “lamestream” press.  And she says she can beat Obama.  She thinks so.  Can President Obama beat her?  You betcha, or can bet he thinks he can.

Plus, can we cut the cheap shots over those new TSA screenings?  OK, you tell me how to keep the killers off the planes because that is the real question, and it‘s going to be a huger issue if one of those gets by, one of those hijackers get by and blow up a plane.  We‘re going to get tougher and tougher and tougher.  And how do you think the Israelis have prevented airline terrorism for them all these years?

Also, will President Obama really put on the pressure to repeal “Don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and trim the Bush tax cuts on the rich?  Will he, or will he try to get through Christmas with a compromise?  And who‘s going to scream if he does, if he‘s seen as, quote, “caving to Republicans”?  Will that cause him trouble with the Howard Dean, Russ Feingold folks who may be looking to challenge him for president next time?

One of the key issues will be the START treaty, which Republican Jon Kyl is opposing for no other reason than to humiliate the president, and for his case to appease the neocons.  This isn‘t about earmarks or waste, fraud and abuse.  This is about nuclear weapons.  Can anybody defend this Republican push to destroy nuclear peace?

Finally, the best ever skit from “Saturday Night Live.”  Check out “SNL‘s” send-up of the TSA patdown controversy.  It‘s one of their best spoofs I can ever remember, and that‘s in the HARDBALL “Sideshow” tonight.

We start with Sarah Palin.  Well, we have to.  Some people, by the way, are afraid we‘re going to end with her!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  David Corn is Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and writes for PoliticsDaily.com.  And Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst.

Let‘s take a look at former governor Palin last week in an interview with Barbara Walters.  What a showdown that was.  Let‘s listen to the key question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  I‘m looking at the lay of the land now and trying to figure that out, if it‘s a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it‘s a good thing.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS:  If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?

PALIN:  I believe so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I would love to know what‘s going on in Barbara Walters‘s head!  She has seen them all.  She knows the weight (ph).  She can judge the people.  And there she‘s looking at this woman (INAUDIBLE) What is her story.  What is her story?

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  That came across as a real HARDBALL interview there, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, OK.

CORN:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  Sometimes the wide...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  As you make that dismissive comment about one of the heroes of journalism.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That is—that is the wide-open question.  Sometimes...

CORN:  You never know.

MATTHEWS:  ... a snarky question gets the really good answer.

CORN:  Like Ted Kennedy...

MATTHEWS:  Like, she said, I could beat him.  I could beat him.

CORN:  Listen, Pat Buchanan‘s old friend, Ronald Reagan, there was a saying associated with him, “Do it for the Gipper.”  With Sarah Palin, it looks like her saying is, Do it for the hell of it.  I mean, she‘s out there with a book, with a TV show...

MATTHEWS:  Is she really running?

CORN:  I don‘t think she knows yet.  I think she wants to just, you know, cash in...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

CORN:  ... and get a lot of celebrity and...

MATTHEWS:  OK, I‘m impressed.  Let‘s look at the polling, Pat.  I don‘t want to waste your time here with this because this is a really not question.  And I know you like her, and there are certain things about her that everybody likes.  But let‘s take a look.  This is a Quinnipiac poll.  This is a really good poll.  It‘s the first one out of the chute.  Look at this, the morning line, of course.  And you got—old Jack Germond, our buddy, used to say, Don‘t pay attention to these early polls, but here they are -- 19 points for Sarah Palin, Romney‘s got 18, Mike Huckabee very strong at 17, Newt at 15 and Pawlenty down there at what, 6.

What I‘m impressed, by as a poll watcher—and I completely believe in them for what they are, are look at how it looks right now—Huckle Chuckle is so strong—he‘s within basically, the margin of error—with nowhere near the name ID of these other two people.  Is he really a contender?  Is this really a three-way fight right now?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have one thing that none of the others have.  They have followings, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BUCHANAN:  Huckabee‘s got a tremendous following among the Christians. 

He won the Iowa caucuses.  Sarah is...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a reverend.

BUCHANAN:  Sarah is basically...

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t he a Reverend?

BUCHANAN:  I think he was.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not—you know, I not only agree with you, I am of you.

MATTHEWS:  But are you always a reverend once you are a Reverend, or can you sort of change?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think Pat Robertson dropped it and he said he was a Christian businessman, but I think he was still a Reverend.  But let me say this.  If you go into Iowa, Sarah Palin‘s got the Tea Party she would have with her.  She would have the Christians with her.  And I think she‘s got the right-to-life...

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Hold it!  Huckabee is the one challenger who could take an enormous part of that base away from her...

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.

BUCHANAN:  ... and frankly, deliver it to someone else.

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So this is foreign territory for you, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re behind enemy lines here.  Let‘s be honest here.  Look, it seems to me if you look at this like a bracket situation, you‘ve got the western conference, the Tea Party people, very Christian conservative, like you are, about very believing in the moral issues, like abortion...

CORN:  Well, wait a second.  Some of the Tea Party are Libertarians.

MATTHEWS:  Then there‘s East Coast, which is sort of the establishment, the Mitt Romney types.  I think you got two brackets.  If she is knocked out for that conservative bracket, that Christian conservative bracket...

CORN:  Mike Huckabee...

MATTHEWS:  ... by Mike Huckabee, she‘s out of the game.

BUCHANAN:  Or if...

MATTHEWS:  If she wins that, she‘s in it to the end, right?

BUCHANAN:  No, I disagree with this.  I think what she‘s got—Chris, she went down into Delaware and got behind an unknown and got her to beat in the primary the most popular Republican in the state.  She can do what FDR did not do, which is knock people off in her own party.

MATTHEWS:  Yes...

CORN:  But wait—but wait...

BUCHANAN:  And so I think...

CORN:  Pat...

BUCHANAN:  Hold it!  Let me finish.  Let me finish.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  They‘re afraid of her, you‘re saying.

BUCHANAN:  ... Sarah Palin‘s—she‘s got legs, in this sense.  She can last through defeats and keep going.  Very few others can do that.

CORN:  But she‘s—she‘s—except for Huckabee...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look at the people that don‘t like her...

CORN:  She still has to campaign on her own.  Going in and giving her...

MATTHEWS:  OK, watch this...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  ... the difference.

MATTHEWS:  If you ever doubt there‘s a Republican establishment out there, watch Barbara Bush.  Here she is in an interview with Larry King, one of Larry King‘s last interviews.  Let‘s listen to this interesting back-up—back-and-forth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  What‘s your read about Sarah Palin?

BARBARA BUSH, WIFE OF FMR. PRES. GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful.  And I think she‘s very happy in Alaska.  And I hope she‘ll stay there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I like the non-reaction from George Herbert Walker!

CORN:  Whoever thought that Barbara Bush would be the voice of the American public?  She‘s more in sync with people than Pat is because Sarah Palin‘s unfavorable ratings...

MATTHEWS:  What would you rather have as president of the United States, Sarah Palin or Barbara Bush?

CORN:  I‘d go for Barbara Bush.

MATTHEWS:  I know you would!  That‘s a trick question!

CORN:  Of course!

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  I mean, but wait a second.  Sarah Palin‘s unfavorable ratings are over 50 percent, in most (ph) any poll.  She does well with a certain segment of the Republican population...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  ... doesn‘t even match well against Obama.

BUCHANAN:  We‘re talking about the Republican primary.  Now, that—excuse me.  Barbara Bush is a great lady.  That was a very snarky establishment comment that‘s going to offend a lot of people.  But I agree with you it‘s representative of what the establishment believes about Sarah Palin.

MATTHEWS:  Which is she‘s not up to it.

BUCHANAN:  Well, which is...

CORN:  You know, sometimes, the establishment‘s not wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... challenging us...

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s take a look...

BUCHANAN:  ... for this nomination.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at a group that has always backed her, you know, are friend, Freddie “the beetle (ph)” Barnes and Bill Kristol of “The National Journal,” a neoconservative in one case, an old conservative in another.  They basically found her on a boat.  They went up on one of these Alaska cruises.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I went up with my father...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... great trip.  They went on a “Weekly Standard”—one of these cruise ships where you have a lot of intellectual stuff going on.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And they had her meet them—meet them at the boat.  She came running out to the boat, and they went to lunch.  They picked her as their new hero.  Well, they‘ve apparently dropped her how.  So the neocons have dropped Sarah Palin, according to this article.

Here‘s Matt Lebash (ph) in the upcoming issue of “The Weekly Standard.”  “Good for Palin if she‘s happy following her gut, though there‘s no compelling reason to suggest the rest of us should tag along behind.”

That is (INAUDIBLE) submissive gesture right then, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  They have—they have just—they picked her, just like they picked Quayle, and they discarded Quayle...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... once they were finished with him.  Have they done the same to her?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think they...

MATTHEWS:  Has Bill Kristol basically sent a message out...

BUCHANAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  ... she‘s not up to this?

BUCHANAN:  No, not yet.  If he ran an editorial saying—saying what...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... leading indicator.

BUCHANAN:  Well, it may be an indicator, but it‘s not conclusive, quite frankly.  But if Kristol did it himself in his own magazine, I would agree with you.  But look, she is far bigger than the neocons, who are all chiefs and no Indians.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  She was a figure—my people called me about her in 2006.

CORN:  They know something that most Americans know, which is...

MATTHEWS:  That she‘s empty?

CORN:  ... that she‘s not—she‘s—she‘s empty and she‘d not competitive in the general election.  They want to win the next election!  They don‘t want to just express their feelings, they want to win!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... Pat, that she‘s not doing any homework, any substance.

BUCHANAN:  No, I mean, she‘s doing very well not doing substance.

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... preparing be president.

BUCHANAN:  What he says—there is merit in what he says.

CORN:  Thank you!

BUCHANAN:  These Republicans can taste—can taste the presidency and...

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a win (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN:  And they‘re saying, If we nominate her, we‘re going down the tubes.  But we want that power.  Now, ultimately, that‘s where the neocons will go.  They are not...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s my...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  ... most Republicans will go.

MATTHEWS:  OK, can I make a prediction of what the reaction—left and right.  I think what‘s going on here is exactly what you say.  They‘re looking at the polls on Obama.  They‘re wondering if he can get his sea legs back.  We‘ll see between now in Christmas...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... New Year‘s, if he can do it.  And of course, I‘d like to see him do it.  But if he can‘t get his seal legs back and this looks like a real wobbly LBJ situation...

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... like ‘68, where he‘s going down, they‘re not going to blow on  some sweetheart—somebody‘s on the right that they happen to like ideologically.  They‘re going to pick a winner.  This is Nixon country.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  This is when Nixon won in ‘68.  I think it‘s Newt.  I think Newt‘s going to...

CORN:  Newt?

MATTHEWS:  Newt.  I think...

CORN:  No way!

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Chris—Chris, 1980, the real sensible choice was George H.W. Bush because people wanted to get rid of Carter and he was safe.  Instead, Republicans went for—now, that‘s the danger of...

MATTHEWS:  But Reagan was a heavyweight.

BUCHANAN:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Reagan was also somebody about whom there were enormous questions right to the end of the campaign.  See, you got to...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Keep quiet!  Keep quiet, would you?

MATTHEWS:  Just for a second.  Let Pat...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Look, you don‘t account for people who respond to the heart not—I mean, don‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Does Newt not get to the heart?

BUCHANAN:  Oh, here‘s the thing—no!

CORN:  No.

BUCHANAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  And people...

MATTHEWS:  Who else gets to the Republican heart besides Sarah Palin?

BUCHANAN:  Huckabee.  Huckabee‘s got a following...

MATTHEWS:  So you think this as a battle—Pat Buchanan, Patrick J.  Buchanan—we‘re on the line here.  You think this is a battle for the heart of the Republican Party, the conservative movement, and the battle at large here, the big battle...

BUCHANAN:  I see the big battle‘s between three.  I think Romney‘s the establishment guy...

MATTHEWS:  How can he appeal to the heart?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... takes the establishment end of the...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  The last time out, McCain won without appealing to anybody...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s going to win the nomination?

CORN:  Mitt Romney.  Huckabee and Palin, it‘s a death match from the social conservative front...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Hey, can I finish now?

BUCHANAN:  Sure.  Sure.

CORN:  He slips in on the basis of being a businessman and be able to talk about the economy, which is something Sarah Palin can‘t do, and so the...

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s why...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How do you go to the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida—it‘s going to be September 3 or something.  It‘s going to be 120 degrees down in Tampa.  I don‘t know why these pick these locations!  In Tampa—everybody‘s going to be sweating and hot all day long.  It‘s going to be humid, 120.  And all these conservatives are going to truck down there from Iowa, from South Carolina, all the places where Palin wins, if she runs, and they‘re going to go down there and put their salute up to Mitt Romney?

CORN:  It‘s over by then.  It‘s over by then.  You know how the math works.

BUCHANAN:  Chris, Chris, look—look, tell me who wins Iowa and who wins South Carolina...

MATTHEWS:  She does!

BUCHANAN:  ... and I‘ll tell you who wins—I‘ll tell you who wins the nomination.  That‘s it.  If she wins those two, she wins.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  Everybody else is gone!

CORN:  Well, you know, then the Republicans lose in 2012, and people know that.

BUCHANAN:  Well...

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  I mean, you don‘t think, you know, that she‘s up to...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘ve done this before.

MATTHEWS:  I salute you for recommending that Republicans (INAUDIBLE) pick Mitt Romney, who may be a lot tougher for Barack to beat.

CORN:  Oh, a lot tougher.  I think he‘s the hardest one out there for him...

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve been honest here, and I like honest analysts.  And you basically (INAUDIBLE) if you had to put your money, Pat, right now on the table, 100 bucks, who would you put it on?

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know.  I really don‘t.

CORN:  Oh, come on, Pat!

BUCHANAN:  Tell me—tell me who‘s in.  If Huckabee‘s in, I would guess...

MATTHEWS:  You want the scanner or patdown?  What do you want?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  The scanner or the patdown?

BUCHANAN:  If Huckabee‘s in...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... on Romney.

MATTHEWS:  We‘ll bring Pat...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... David Corn, Pat Buchanan.  He gets the scanner, he gets the patdown.

Coming up: Still lots of anger about that full-body scanner and patdowns at the airport.  What is the alternative?  That‘s what I ask.  Is the Israelis the only one with the (INAUDIBLE) 45-minute interviews.  Is that what we want?  We‘re going to talk about why people are so bothered and what about this extra security before boarding a plane?  That‘s the question.  Shouldn‘t we know more about the people before they show up on line?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I mentioned that new Quinnipiac poll that shows that President Obama in match-ups with potential 2012 Republicans, and the numbers are very close in the actual match-ups.  Mitt Romney narrowly edges out President Obama, 45-42.  Too close to call, that one.  Obama narrowly leads Huckabee, 46-44.  Too close to call there.  Obama leads Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, largely unknown, 45-36, but he‘s an known guy.  And Obama gets closest to 50 percent against Palin.  He beats her 48 to 40, but you‘ll notice he doesn‘t get 50 against her.  Very interesting.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I understand people‘s frustrations, and what I‘ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we‘re doing is the only way to assure the American people‘s safety.  And you also have to think through are there other ways that are less intrusive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was, of course, President Obama over the weekend in Lisbon, responding to the public outcry over those new airport screening devices.  After facing a groundswell of complaints over the use of image scanners and aggressive manual patdowns, TSA administrator John Pistole said that security officials will try to make the screening procedure as minimally invasive as possible.  Here‘s what he told Matt Lauer today on “Today.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST:  Are you now actively rethinking this policy?

JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR:  Yes, Matt.  You‘re probably aware that we constantly evaluate and evolve our protocols in light of the latest intelligence.  We‘re going to look at how can we do the most effective screening in the least invasive way, knowing that there‘s always a tradeoff that we talked about, that tradeoff between security and privacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, his name‘s Pistole.  Anyway, Erroll Southers was nominated by President Obama to head the TSA.  He‘s a former FBI counterterrorism agent, and of course, the former chief of homeland security and intelligence for the LA World (ph) Airport‘s police department.  I saw him this morning on Savannah Guthrie, on “Rundown.”  Ginger McCall is staff council and assistant director for the Open Government Project for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.   She‘s suing the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the program due to privacy concerns and health risks.

Mr. Southers, thank you so much.  What I loved about you this morning on “Rundown” is how clear you are in explaining this.  What right now is the use of scanners and patdowns—what—if I went to National Airport, I can tell you, but you tell me professionally, what do you face if you travel to visit a relative this weekend in an American airline?

ERROLL SOUTHERS, FMR. TSA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE:  Well, if you travel this weekend—and I‘ll be honest with you, Chris.  I‘ve traveled extensively over the last two weeks and have not been subjected to advanced imaging technology or a patdown.  But if you do go to the airport, you are then going to go through the routine procedure.  And if you trigger a sensor, you‘ll have to be asked then to go to secondary.  Secondary will—may include advanced imaging technology, and you‘ll go through that protocol.  If you opt out of advanced imaging technology, you‘ll be subjected to a patdown, as has been discussed for the last week or so.

MATTHEWS:  Now, in Washington, it‘s somewhat different.  In Washington

and I go about 200 times a year through National—Reagan Airport. 

Basically you have—it‘s almost like a lottery.  Most of the times, you get the magnetomic (ph) -- the regular—the metal detector, but you might go in (INAUDIBLE) yourself—find yourself in a line that goes through the new scanner, the image scanner, and that would (INAUDIBLE) if you just happen to be in that line.  Is that the way you see it (INAUDIBLE) Ginger?

GINGER MCCALL, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What do you think we should be doing to check people at airports?

MCCALL:  Well, first I...

MATTHEWS:  No, what do you think we should we be doing?  That‘s my question.

MCCALL:  What should we be doing?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MCCALL:  We should be focusing more on gathering—lawfully gathering intelligence, and...

MATTHEWS:  Well, who would we get intelligence on, everybody who comes to the airport?

MCCALL:  In this instance, like with the terrorist attack last year, we had the intelligence that we needed to act on that.  We...

MATTHEWS:  No, no.  I‘m asking—no, no.  Don‘t change the question.  This is HARDBALL.  I‘m asking you a serious question.  We have thousands of people in line at the airport every day, all trying to get on the airplane.  What do we do with those thousands of people to make sure they‘re not a danger to the country or to the people in those planes?

MCCALL:  We...

MATTHEWS:  How do we make sure those people—those people are not a danger?  How do we do it?

MCCALL:  Yes, we focus on developing technology that respects privacy while also giving us security.  These body scanners do neither.

MATTHEWS:  No, what do we do to check on those people waiting in line? 

How do we make sure they‘re not carrying a bomb?

MCCALL:  We can use technology...

MATTHEWS:  What is that?  What technology?

MCCALL:  ATR, the automated target recognition technology, automated threat recognition technology...

MATTHEWS:  What is that?

MCCALL:  It‘s something that‘s being put in place in airports around the world.  TSA is actually, hopefully, working on developing this technology.  Basically, instead of displaying a naked image of a traveler, it displays an avatar image or a stick figure, and then it targets—if there‘s a specific anomaly, it targets that area for further inspection.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Right.  But we don‘t have that technology?

MCCALL:  That technology has been developed.  It is continuing to be developed.  What we need to do is to ensure that that technology is not just overlaid on these machines that can store and transfer the images. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, can we do this today? 

MCCALL:  Yes, we can.  It‘s in place in airports I believe in the Netherlands. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you familiar with this technology, Erroll, Mr.

Southers?

SOUTHERS:  I am with some form of this technology, but she does have a good point. 

It‘s about intelligence.  And I think we should be looking at the traveling public.  I think what we should be leaning toward is a trusted traveler program where people are willing to submit themselves voluntarily to higher scrutiny, getting a background check, having a passport which will then take a scan of their hand, their retina.  And then they go through the system.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I‘m for that.

(CROSSTALK)

SOUTHERS:  Now we have a risk-based approach.

MATTHEWS:  I heard that the airlines screw that, because they hate that, because they want to be able to charge you for business class or first class.  And then they can charge you more to get in the shorter line. 

They don‘t want somebody coming along and saying, here‘s your card; you should be able to get on that plane fast.  Isn‘t that true?  Isn‘t it the airlines that want that money?  They want you to pay to get in a shorter line? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is that what is going on right now?

SOUTHERS:  I don‘t know that that‘s true.  I can say, being a registered traveler with global entry, that I had to pay $100 for five years.  It‘s good for international travel.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a good deal.

SOUTHERS:  It‘s worth it to me.  It is a good deal.  It‘s worth it to me.

It does not mean you bypass screening.  It means they still look at your bags for prohibited items. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SOUTHERS:  You‘re still walking through the magnetometer.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m one of those travelers that really doesn‘t care.  I travel constantly.  I am glad—I know we‘re in a world of danger.  It‘s going to get worse and worse and worse. 

And, by the way, I will argue to this.  And this is just an argument.  And you‘re just coming on the show for the first time, Ginger McCall—that if we get hit again, we‘re going to have a much tougher—there will be—whatever you call it, profiling.  People are going to be really looking for the bad guys.

And they‘re not going to be so nice about it because the minute we let people through and blow up a plane because we‘re trying to be nice about it, and say, well, we could have stopped the guy—here‘s my question.  Why don‘t we go through this question?

Is it is the smart thing to do to look, as you said this morning, to look for the bombers, not the bomb?  Shouldn‘t you focus more on people who have been to a lot other countries that have been against us, countries in the Middle East that are out to get us, where there‘s a lot of terrorists? 

Shouldn‘t we be looking for people with those kinds of travel histories, those kinds of—that kind of information?  You could call it profiling, but that gets to the question of driving while black in this country, all the history of that stuff.

I‘m talking about actual looking for people that would be from the problem areas.  Can we do that now? 

SOUTHERS:  I think we can do that.  I think we should do that.  I think we should be focusing on the human element. 

And, Chris, you hit the nail on the head.  We should be looking at travel patterns.  We should be looking at histories.  There are certain people we have to look at.  I know that profiling is a very bad word in this country, but there‘s a human element to this.  Terrorism occurs because human beings cause terrorism to occur. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SOUTHERS:  So, we have go to get better again at looking for the bomber.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  It‘s not ethnic.  Well, I would be totally against this—any American should—against anybody because they‘re dark-skinned or because of anything else about them.  But you go through their documents, where they have come from.  Their nationality is a fair game, isn‘t it? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it‘s fair game? 

MCCALL:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t think it‘s fair game to check a person‘s nationality?

MCCALL:  Well, here‘s the thing, though.  You‘re dealing with a dynamic enemy.  You‘re dealing with intelligent people who are going to outsmart out. 

(CROSSTALK)

MCCALL:  If they know that you‘re going to be looking at a specific ethnicity, they‘re going to avoid...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You don‘t want to go anything then? 

MCCALL:  No, absolutely not. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You want to use a technology that hasn‘t been put online yet. 

MCCALL:  That technology has been put online.  It‘s been put in line in airports.

I want to use intelligence that exists.  We had the intelligence that we needed last Christmas.  And, importantly, these machines are not effective against powdered explosives.  They are not designed to detect powdered explosives.

If you look at Rapiscan‘s Web site, if you look at the procurement specifications document that we have up on our Web site that TSA authored, these machines were not used to detect PETN and powdered explosives. 

MATTHEWS:  So, we‘re using the wrong machines?

MCCALL:  We‘re using ineffective machines that violate people‘s privacy and give them the illusion of security. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Why are we doing that?

MCCALL:  Probably because there‘s a lot of money that changes hands. 

National security theater.  It makes people feel better.

MATTHEWS:  What do you mean a lot of money changes hands? 

MCCALL:  One hundred and seventy thousand dollars each for these machines, $2.4 billion in the GAO report.

MATTHEWS:  So, who—I‘m following you.  What about the money changing hands?  Who‘s getting this money you‘re talking about? 

MCCALL:  Probably the same revolving door people that get the money...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCALL:  ... these projects.

MATTHEWS:  So, our government is—there‘s dirty business here?

MCCALL:  Well, there‘s a problem with the revolving door, people going from agencies into corporations. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re saying we‘re buying faulty equipment because somebody is getting the money who has influence?

MCCALL:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who are you accusing here specifically? 

MCCALL:  Well, Michael Chertoff has been shown to have ties to these companies. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So, Michael Chertoff is what, in the tank with some businesses that are doing business with the government, you‘re saying?

MCCALL:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  How about Ray LaHood? 

MCCALL:  Not familiar. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he‘s the head of transportation safety.  He‘s the head of the Department of Transportation.  Is he part of this problem?

MCCALL:  I can‘t really speak to that.

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re saying we have machinery now because a Republican in the past in the administration had some sweetheart deal with some suppliers, some vendors?

MCCALL:  It‘s not just Chertoff.  TSA has a history of this.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who else is involved, in bed with these—buying these faulty machines? 

MCCALL:  I‘m not going to name names for you.  I can talk about the machines...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  See, we‘re finally getting to the bottom of it.  You believe the United States government is using faulty machinery because of corrupt deals. 

MCCALL:  I think that this machinery—I know that this machinery is not effective at detecting...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And you‘re saying because Michael Chertoff, who was head of transportation safety—who was the head of Homeland Security, was involved in this?

MCCALL:  That‘s the only reason that I can see for the United States spending $2.4 billion on technology that‘s not effective at picking up the powdered explosives. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Do you know anything about this, Erroll?  Do you have any idea—reason to believe that our government is corrupt when it comes to homeland security and protecting us at airports?

SOUTHERS:  I want to believe that the American security apparatus is in the interest—acting in the best interests of keeping Americans safe and that the administration, meaning TSA at this point, has acted with whatever information they have that rose to the level of scrutiny that we have now. 

I think, at the end of the day, we all want the right thing, which is for people to be safe and secure in traveling about the country and the world. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to have Michael—Michael Chertoff, if you‘re watching, I want you on the show to defend yourself.  That‘s a serious charge.

You have just accused him of corruption. 

MCCALL:  I am not accusing him of corruption. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You accused him of buying faulty equipment because of deals that are made with sweetheart arrangements with vendors.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCALL:  TSA has a history of buying equipment before they have actually demonstrated the effectiveness of the equipment. 

MATTHEWS:  Why have they done it in this case?  You said because of a sweetheart arrangement with vendors. 

MCCALL:  That would be speculation.  And I can only...

MATTHEWS:  Then you‘re admitting you‘re speculating...

(CROSSTALK)

MCCALL:  Well, I can say that Chertoff is connected.  That came out last year. 

MATTHEWS:  With whom? 

MCCALL:  With the developers and the manufacturers of this technology.

MATTHEWS:  Therefore, he made a deal he shouldn‘t have on behalf of the U.S. government?

MCCALL:  That—again, that‘s not really what I‘m here to speak about. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You just did. 

MCCALL:  I can tell you about the fact that these machines are not effective...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you‘re on the record.  You‘re on the record, Ginger McCall, with accusing Michael Chertoff of dirty business on behalf of the United States government. 

MCCALL:  Well, I think that I would probably not be alone in that.  And I think that he himself has admitted that he has ties to these companies.

MATTHEWS:  We will find that out in the next few hours.  You have made a serious charge. 

Thank you.  Thanks for coming on.

If it‘s true, it‘s a serious charge.  I don‘t think it is, but we will see.

Thank you, Erroll Southers.

And, thank you, Ginger McCall.

Coming up: “Saturday Night Live” with a few ideas on how to feel better about those new TSA security screenings.  That‘s next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL and time for the “Sideshow.” 

First tonight:  You‘re all alone.  You‘re in your room a million miles from any social life and, worst of all, it‘s Saturday night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Feeling lonely this holiday season? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Looking for a little human interaction? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Do you want to feel contact in certain special places? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Then why not go through security at an airport?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  The TSA.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  TSA acts are ready and standing by to give you a little something extra to feel thankful about this holiday season. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  Spending time with a TSA agent couldn‘t be easier.  Simply book a flight departing from any American airport.  When selected for a full body scanner, say no.  You will be pulled aside by a TSA agent.  And that‘s when the fun begins. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS:  The TSA, it‘s our business to touch yours. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, that was boffo.

Next: the handicapper Huckabee.  Last week, Sarah Palin said she could beat President Obama in 2012.  Well, Mike Huckabee‘s response, it‘s not so easy.  Here he is on “The View” today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)

MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR:  I think it‘s going to be harder to beat Barack Obama than a lot of Republicans were thinking, because he is the president.  He‘s going to have a billion dollars starting out on his war chest.  There is an extraordinary advantage of an incumbent.

And I will tell you something else people don‘t think about.  A divided government is good for the executive branch.  What that means is that, when the executive and legislative branches fight, the executive always wins. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, could this guy be the one? 

Finally, think we have seen the last of Sharron Angle?  Not so fast.  Nevada‘s Tea Party loser said this weekend that she‘s eying her options in 2012.  Angle tells a local paper that she might run for the state‘s 2nd District House seat in the Congress if the incumbent challenges Republican Senator John Ensign.  Angle added she would have liked to have run a more positive Senate campaign. 

Guess she‘s dropped that Second Amendment remedy of hers.  Always wondered what that meant exactly.  Was she talking about another Whiskey Rebellion out there in Arizona?  It took George Washington to put down the first one.

Anyway, up next:  If President Obama caves in to Republicans on don‘t ask, don‘t tell and the Bush tax cuts, will that cause him trouble with the base in 2012? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Amanda Drury with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finishing mixed after a major turnaround today—the Dow ending 25 points in the red, after being down as much as 150 points midday -- the S&P 500 shedding two points, the Nasdaq adding 13. 

Big banks under pressure after the FBI raided the offices of three hedge funds looking for evidence of alleged misconduct.  Goldman Sachs leading the declines today.  It is not targeted, but there are concerns it could end up embroiled in the investigation. 

Retailers, meantime, are looking strong on a report showing pre-holiday clothing sales up 10 percent over the last year.  And Amazon is launching an iPhone app that will let customers compare prices in stores and order online instantly if they find a better one. 

And software maker Novell is being purchased by Attachmate for $2.2 billion.  Netflix, meantime, is hiking prices and will begin offering a monthly subscription plan for streaming content.  HP reporting after the closing bell, delivering better-than-expected earnings and an upbeat forecast.

And that‘s it from CNBC for now.  We are first in business worldwide -

now it is back over to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

I, first of all, want to thank Michael Smerconish for sitting in for me last week on HARDBALL.  I was over in Rome with the new cardinal from Washington, Cardinal Wuerl.

Anyway, there‘s a giant game of chicken getting under way right here in Washington, and neither Democrats nor Republicans want to swerve.  Democrats in Congress are keeping a close eye on how President Obama navigates politically over the next month.  Will he hold the line on Bush tax cuts? 

How hard will he fight for don‘t ask, don‘t tell and, most importantly, for some in the liberal base, will he stand firm against Republicans? 

Well, joining me right now is Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

Thank you, gentlemen.  I have great respect for you.  You got through this election.  This is a tough one.  And I think that anybody who gets through this doesn‘t have to worry about general elections from the Republicans anymore, because this may be the worst of your histories.

Let me start now with Congressman Kucinich. 

It seems to me that they will probably—everybody knows the issue now.  Will the president agree to the Republicans when they insist on a full extension of the Bush tax cuts, including those for people making over $250,000 a year?

How does the president face the fact it takes 60 senators to approve a continuation of the tax cuts?  And unless the Republican give him those 60 votes, he will find himself facing two choices.  Either the public doesn‘t get the tax cut, and they blame him over Christmas and the holidays.  The Republicans come in and give them the tax cuts.  Or he takes hell from the progressive base.  How does he win that—that choice? 

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  Well, I think this is time for the president to go right to the American people, who vote for these members of the Senate, and tell the American people that he wants to deliver on a tax cut for the middle class. 

I think the dynamic has to change, Chris.  We‘re clearly in a game-changing environment.  After this election, the president is in a campaign mode.  He has to be faced with the consequences of, if he doesn‘t get help, he needs to go to the American people and say he wants their help and he wants them to contact their senators to support his efforts to bring the middle class a tax cut. 

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Cohen, what would you do?  What do you think he should do?  He does have this dilemma facing him in the next couple weeks. 

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE:  I think he‘s got to play hardball.  I think he‘s got to just say that we want to give tax cuts to the middle class, the 98 percent, where we will stimulate the economy, and the other 2 percent continues to contribute to the deficit and doesn‘t help with the economy. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

COHEN:  And I think he just has to say it and talk—maybe just go to Maine.  He just needs a couple of votes, and he can get them in Maine and Massachusetts.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, he needs—he could get a couple there.  He could some perhaps in Ohio from Voinovich. 

The question is, what does he do?  Do you believe that—you, first, Congressman Cohen, on—this time.  Do you think he has the clout to do what Roosevelt couldn‘t do, which is to nail somebody in their district and really make them switch?  Do you believe that‘s possible he could get some Republicans?

COHEN:  I think it‘s possible.  When he talks 98 percent of the American public has got their tax cuts, and you‘re looking at the richest 2 percent, I think he can make the case.

And this is a Democratic stand that he needs to take.  And, if he doesn‘t, the Bush tax cuts are an  anthem for Democrats and to capitulate to that, there‘s no difference in the parties.

I got an e-mail today, and it was about Afghanistan and Iraq.  And this fellow said he‘s always a Democrat, but he‘s not voting for Barack and he‘s not voting for Steve if we‘re still in Afghanistan, if we‘re still committing in wars.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  OK.

Let‘s go—I understand that point of view.  Let me—let me go back to Congressman Kucinich on this question.  Maybe you don‘t to give away the play right now.  But it comes down to mid-December.  It‘s coming up on Christmastime and the holidays, and the president can‘t spring those Republicans.

Does he sign the bill or not?  Does he just accept the fact they knew they had the won, or is he just go over Christmas and the holidays and say, I don‘t care what the Republicans do when they get control of the House, no Democratic House is going to agree with this?  Does he win that argument if he goes that far, not letting people have their tax cuts through Christmas?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  I think that he has to fight on this, and I think the American people appreciate to see Barack Obama the fighter, who we saw in 2008 election, the Barack Obama who when he was sworn in, who literally had lightening in a bottle.  There‘s a magic moment.

We can recapture that moment, but he‘s going to need some forward momentum.  We‘ll support him in the House.  And if he takes that forward to the American people and says, this is something I‘m digging in on, this is what I want for you the middle class—and I think that will make the difference.

MATTHEWS:  So Truman, not Clinton.  Don‘t compromise, fight it.

KUCINICH:  Right.  That‘s right.  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that, Congressman Cohen?

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN:  This is a litmus test.  This is a litmus test.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s go to a—let‘s go to a hot issue with not just the gay community in the country and those who are close to them, but the whole question of progressives and where they stand on equal treatment towards an open service in the military.  The commission‘s going to come out with this report at the end of this month.  We‘re going to know probably that the military supports ending “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Can the president put enough pressure on the senators, again, to get to 60 he needs to get this thing approved, the change in the law?  Congressman Cohen first.

COHEN:  Well, if it‘s attached to the defense appropriations and I think he can get it through with the defense appropriations—particularly if there are earmarks there that are important to people‘s districts.  Barry Goldwater was for ending “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and the conservatives ought to be able to rally at least to be as liberal as Barry Goldwater.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Kucinich, do you think he can win on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell”?  Now, this is a weird one because the military to the Joint Chiefs supports change.  Gates says it‘s better that the Congress do it than the courts.  It‘s more reasonable to do it that way.  It‘s a smoother way to do it.

But the marines at the top seem to be very much against this.  Is this going to be a position that they can hold?  Can they hold that position?

KUCINICH:  I think that the president can set a tone here of basic fairness.  If somebody serving our country, that‘s a sacred obligation that they give and a duty to the country, we owe them then a duty to make sure that they‘re treated like any other American and not have to be given a second class citizenship.

So, I think this is something, again, that‘s worth fighting for and the president will have support in the House as he has had support in the House on this.  And I think that we see the change happening in the military.  That‘s a good thing.  It may not be happening in all the service, but I think that when everyone who serves his country knows that when somebody puts on a uniform of a country and serves proudly, that they ought to be given full rights in a democratic society.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman Cohen, you think times have changed enough since the time that Bill Clinton came in and put this up front or allowed it to become a top issue?  Does he get humiliated by the center and the right on this issue like Clinton was where Clinton really took the strong stand then had to buckle?  Is it—have times changed enough on this issue that he can he say I‘m for getting rid of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” for total open service of gay people in the military, period, and I don‘t mind who doesn‘t like it?

COHEN:  I think times have changed.  And I think the fact is: the president has to realize when he runs for re-election, he‘s going to have to have his base and he‘s not going to get the Republicans and he‘s not going to get those people who are against these types of things, as the people who are against gays in the military, by and large, they‘re against health care and they‘re against all the progress that we‘ve made in this country, so much of the progress and they scream socialism when they don‘t even know what socialism is.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COHEN:  The president needs to support the people who have supported him, get his 50 percent and just show some results with his action and show change.

MATTHEWS:  You both make a good case.  I like your case.  I think you‘re right.  Harry Truman may be making a comeback here.

Thank you so much, Congressman Kucinich and Congressman Cohen.

KUCINICH:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming on.  Have a happy Thanksgiving both of you, gentlemen.

COHEN:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next: are Republicans trying to sabotage the START treaty or simply trying to humiliate the president?  What is Jon Kyl of Arizona, the one guy that‘s standing up, making here, keeping peace with the former Soviet Union, with the Russians?  What is going on here?  What‘s wrong with compromising for safety?

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, one former presidential candidate has made up her mind about 2012.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains firm that she will not run for president again.  Asked by “FOX News Sunday” host Chris Wallace about pursuing the presidency, Clinton said she‘s very happy doing what she‘s doing and is not in any way interested now in public office or elected office, rather.  Recently, Secretary Clinton brushed off similar questions during her trip to Australia.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

There are some Senate Republicans holding up a nuclear arms treaty with Russia just to keep President Obama from achieving a goal that even a long list of former Republican defense secretaries and secretaries of state support.

With us now: “New York Magazine‘s” John Heilemann and “Chicago Tribune‘s” Clarence Page.

And I think that‘s the question to put forth here.  Let‘s watch the president.  Here he is in Lisbon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have spoken to Senator Kyl directly and—I believe that Senator Kyl wants a safe and secure America, just like I do, and is well-motivated.  So, Senator Kyl has never said to me that he does not want to see START ratified.  He hasn‘t publicly said that he‘s opposed to the treaty.  What he said is that he just felt like he—there wasn‘t enough time to get it done in the lame duck and I take at him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this has come out of nowhere for a lot of us, and we think about the most important issues in the world, and one might be avoiding the still possibility of a nuclear—some kind of nuclear change between us and the former Soviet Union.

John Heilemann, you‘re shaking your head.  But this is—this is big casino to say the least.

Why is one senator standing up against what seems to be a decision by the American, the national security establishment, right and left, and joint chiefs, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Hagel, Baker—Jim Baker, Kenny Duberstein, everybody we can think of who studies these issues and has wanted the world to be avoiding a nuclear war, which is a minimal goal for this planet.

Why is this one senator able to stand up and stop this thing?

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  Well—and, Chris, first of all, I‘m not sure if it‘s just one senator.  I think that Senator Kyl is probably not acting alone here.  He‘s acting with tacit encouragement with Senator McConnell and the others in the Republican Senate leadership.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

HEILEMANN:  And—well, I think your question was very pointed.  I think that he‘s acting this way because what Republicans have learned over the course of the last two years is that opposing Barack Obama at every turn whether—even on issues where they might agree with him substantively has paid political dividends to them.  And the big difference between Senator Kyl, Senator McConnell and all the current Senate Republicans.

And the list of Republican grandees that you just showed up on the screen is that all those Republicans, those wise old men, are no longer in elective politics.  They are people who are fundamentally focused on the national security of the United States and not focused on what‘s going to give the Republican Party political advantage.  They are above politics in some sense.

Senator Kyl is not and nor is Senator McConnell.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get to another possibility.  Kyl seems to be in bed with the neoconservatives.  He loves Frank Gaffney and the rest of those guys, all those various committees they love to be involved with.  Is he just an ideologue on this?  Is there something beyond sheer partisan politics here?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Well, he is something of an ideologue in terms of the START Treaty.  But like John said, it‘s hard to believe he‘d be acting on his own without the tacit support of Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader.

MATTHEWS:  Well, is this part the piece-by-piece destruction of the Obama presidency?  Is this what we‘re watching?

PAGE:  It‘s a small piece.  It‘s what‘s interesting, Chris.  Even the opponents of the treaty, a number of the conservative opponents, say that this particular phase is too small to really be contesting.  Why fight over a reduction of the ceiling from 2,200 warheads down to 1,500?  Unless you‘re trying to make some kind of a partisan point—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- a verification going on in this whole thing, too.

PAGE:  Exactly, verification is improved.  Remember Reagan saying, “Trust, but verify,” inspectors will be able do more under this agreement.  But now, Kyl is talking about skipping the lame-duck session, pushing it back to next year, pushing it back to after so they can hold more hearings, maybe, to try to brief the new Republicans in the Senate.  This is dangerous.  This is very destructive in the process.

MATTHEWS:  I can imagine, I‘m no friend of Vladimir Putin, I don‘t who know is in this country, he‘s an old KGB hand.  But what are they going to think in the former Soviet Union when they found out that one senator from Arizona, and not the famous one, but the other one, has held up what looks to be a state-of-the-art agreement between the United States and Russia on avoiding any kind of nuclear problem down the road by reducing the number of weapons, providing certification, some modernization is part of this, so for the people who are concerned about nuclear strength?

John Heilemann, I think that this is going to be hard for history to write?  They‘re going—this is the one of these Barbara Tuchman things, like, how did this happen?  Like World War I?

HEILEMANN:  Yes.  I agree and I think, you know, what Vladimir Putin is going to think is that president has been weakened on the world stage and that America is not serious in terms of how it‘s dealing with the Soviet Union, or the former Soviet Union.

And I think that, you know, that this is actually part—this goes to your question, Chris, about whether there‘s a neoconservative ideologue bent to this.  There‘s a reason I don‘t think it is, because I think that most neocons that I read and that I hear from think that if this treaty goes down, it is, in fact, going to strengthen the hand of Putin.  And so, even from their perspective, this is probably an important thing do both on substantive grounds and on political grounds.

MATTHEWS:  Well, going to the very point—if you‘re—again, it‘s an ideological crosswire because it seems to me if you‘re a neoconservative or a conservative of any kind, you want to see stronger action by the United States and its allies against Iran.  Stronger than action in Afghanistan in terms of what we‘re doing there.

The Russians are off base.  If we—if we queer this deal with the Russians at this point, that doesn‘t help anybody with an aggressive foreign policy mode.

PAGE:  That‘s right and that‘s kind of the position of Robert Kagan and Max Boot, neoconservative stalwarts on foreign policy, who say that this particular phase it‘s not worth fighting over, there‘s too much of potential damage here and too little gain for either side, including the conservative side.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It looks like it‘s just dead in the water now. 

We‘re not going to have a new START?

PAGE:  Well, not—I‘m told maybe the next few months now.

MATTHEWS:  And, John, it gets into the problem, we have a Republican Congress coming in, more Republican senators, the Democrats would need with Republican help 67 votes for a treaty.  Will they get it next year if they don‘t get it this year?

HEILEMANN:  I think he does—if it doesn‘t happen this year, I don‘t foresee it happening next year.

MATTHEWS:  And is that what Kyl wants?

HEILEMANN:  I think that‘s what Kyl wants.  And I said, this a really great test case.  President Obama in a statement that you guys played just now in the bite, he was doing what he wants to try to do, is reach out and give the Republicans a chance to cooperate and what he is learning, I think we‘re going to learn very quickly, is that they don‘t see any incentive for doing that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  I think that Republican voters out there are beginning to pay attention.  This is more important than politics—

HEILEMANN:  I agree.

MATTHEWS:  -- or bringing down Obama.  This is about the safety of this planet.

Anyway, John Heilemann, thank you, sir.  Thank you, Clarence.  Have a nice Thanksgiving.  Both of you.

When we return, let me finish with some thoughts about what Sarah Palin brings to a presidential campaign and what we still need to see from her if she‘s to be taken seriously.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with Sarah Palin.  I‘ve never met her and the downside of that is I lack the full picture.  Did she come off as phony or real in person?  I can‘t tell you.

But here‘s what I can tell you, she‘s got a dynamite instinct for the stage, and I mean it as a real compliment.  She knows the connection between the figure up there under lights and the guy or woman down in the crowd.  She can connect back and forth—nanosecond by nanosecond with the audience and, boy, is that powerful stuff.

And that goes for television, too.  She loves the tube, and it loves her back.

Given that, here‘s how I look at Palin in 2012.  There‘s no reason in the world why Barack Obama should have so easy a challenger next time as Sarah Palin.  We‘re a great country, and should have, least try to have, great leaders.  She should either show us some hard, informed thinking about where the country needs to go or stick to the shtick she‘s been offering so well—enjoy the fanfare, collect the bucks and enjoy life from the sidelines.

I wanted 2012 where both candidates have the promise to be solid presidents, even if I don‘t agree with one, or either.

Whatever Barack Obama‘s degree of success ultimately, he‘s clearly got the substance to fill the office.  Palin is yet to show that she does, and most people watching right now—whatever your beliefs about what this country needs to do now—know it.

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

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

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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