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updated 11/29/2010 3:05:00 PM ET 2010-11-29T20:05:00

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Michelle Bernard, Amanda Drury, David Corn, John Feehery, Gary Hart, Joan Walsh, Eric Alva

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Who‘re you going to call?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: National security phonies.  Whatever happened to the idea of the GOP as the party of national security, you know, tough on commies, tough on terrorists, tough on anybody who might attack us?  Well, for some reason, folks on the right are now stoking the outrage over the new TSA airline security measures.  But before we join the parade, think about what may be at the end of it.  Make no mistake, they‘ll be the same one, those on the right, pointing fingers if some terrorist does take down a U.S. jetliner.

And Jon Kyl has decided to scuttle the START treaty for no reason other than cheap political gain—either that or neocon nostalgia for the cold war.  Apparently, national security takes a back seat now for the GOP if political points can be scored.

Plus, what are President Obama‘s chances of being reelected in 2012?  Republicans are feeling confident, just as confident as they felt right after the 1994 mid-terms, two years before Bill Clinton cruised to a second term.  We‘ll survey the field with two former presidential candidates.

Also, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley—women are more powerful than ever, but this is not your mother‘s Republican or Democratic Party.  How women are changing the face of American politics.

And on this day before Thanksgiving, we honor America‘s fighting men and women.  The first service member wounded in Iraq joins us to talk about the two American wars right now.

And finally, “Let Me Finish” by giving thanks for having the opportunity to have this job and talk to you every day.

Let‘s begin with Republicans putting politics over national security.  David Corn‘s the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and John Feehery is a Republican strategist.

John, I want to start with you because this is peculiar behavior.  Let me show you a quick montage of what the right has been saying about these new airline security measures at the airport.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The federal fondling is an unconstitutional search and seizure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely!

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Obama-led government agents are acting like perverts in some places, under orders!

REP. JOHN MICA ®, FLORIDA:  It‘s just symptomatic, a slight—a tip of the iceberg of the problems of TSA.

HUCKABEE:  We have lost a level of our freedom in order to retain a level of our freedom.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA:  They are not using common sense. 

They‘re not using intelligence.

LIMBAUGH:  Well, a lot of people are finally starting to say, Keep your hands off my teabag, Mr. President.

JINDAL:  It feels too much from this administration like we‘re playing a defensive game in the war on terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think that—John, I think your buddy Rush Limbaugh finally made the point here, joining the tea bag movement, or (INAUDIBLE) using that phrase, “Keep your hands off my teabag.”  Why is he joining those people who are super-sensitive about airline frisks that you only apparently get if you refuse the screening and you‘re—I don‘t know what, you‘re into that position anyway.  But most people like me fly a couple hundred times a year have no problem with what‘s going on.  We know the game here, the serious game of avoiding getting a plane blown up.  These people seem to have other issues.  Why are the Republicans becoming soft on national defense?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, Chris, I—first of all, I reject completely your assertion there.

MATTHEWS:  I thought you would.  That‘s why you‘re here.

(LAUGHTER)

FEEHERY:  You know, the Republicans have supported President Obama when it came to reinforcing our troops in Afghanistan.  John Boehner put out a supportive statement today on North Korea.  You know, and on this TSA event—you know, the ACLU is against this, as well.  I mean, this—what‘s going on with TSA is a vast overreach.  We all want to fly safely.  We all agree with that.  But the tactics they‘re using are invasive, and I think a lot of people on the left and the right have raised legitimate questions if this is the best way, to frisk grandmothers and 5-year-old children.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FEEHERY:  That doesn‘t make any sense!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- somebody on the left here.  You can speak to the right—

FEEHERY: -- you can do a better job—

MATTHEWS:  Feehery, speak for the right, get silent on the left. 

We‘ve got Corn here.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  I am—I am—

MATTHEWS:  Corn, it is a right-wing parade here—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You just saw it.

CORN:  I am so happy that the right wing is now touting the merits of the ACLU.

FEEHERY:  The ACLU!

CORN:  The only time ever that John or anybody else has used it because it‘s good for them politically.  We just heard Bobby Jindal say that the Obama administration is playing defense.  We had the 200th drone attack just the other day.  You know, Obama is doing a lot more in terms of going to the terrorists directly than Bush ever did.  It may be wrong, it may be right, you can‘t argue that he‘s weak.

And listen, we send thousands, tens of thousands of men and women to Afghanistan to fight and kill, and we‘re complaining about taking our shoes off in long lines?  I mean, I think, rather than these talking heads or shouting heads trying to make political hay out of this, we need to have, I think, if we can with, a decent national discourse about what is the right way to deal with this profound problem.

This is asymmetrical warfare at its best.  There are millions of travelers, tens of thousands—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

CORN: -- of flights a day.  How do you stop that one guy—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

CORN: -- from getting through?  I don‘t see Rush Limbaugh or anybody else giving a decent suggestion.

MATTHEWS:  You know—

CORN:  They‘re using this for political gain.

MATTHEWS:  You know what I don‘t understand, John, is of all the issues in the world—we‘ve got all these men and women fighting over in a horrible place like Afghanistan and still in Iraq, and the issues there.  One person right now, their life is more important than all this kerfuffle.  And yet the right-wing radio, the right-wing TV, Sean Hannity, everybody‘s going loony tunes over this because I think you‘ve seen an opening.  This is consumerism.  This is the Republican Party saying, Here‘s a chance we can get on the side of local television anchorpeople.  We can all join the parade of complaint.  We can all show movies of people in airports.  We can join the jamboree of complaint at the complaint desk.  Isn‘t it just pure politics?

FEEHERY:  Well, no.  This is actually people—

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever had a problem with the airport?

FEEHERY:  This is actually—well, I don‘t actually like being frisked up and down.  I don‘t.

MATTHEWS:  When have you ever been frisked?

FEEHERY:  Well, I‘ve been frisked a couple times, and it‘s not that pleasant.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

FEEHERY:  It‘s not that pleasant.

MATTHEWS:  Why were you picked out?

FEEHERY:  Well, one time it was actually overseas when they just frisked me.  I don‘t know why.

CORN:  Overseas?

FEEHERY:  Well, I‘m just saying—

MATTHEWS:  That‘s Obama‘s problem, too?

FEEHERY:  No, no.  That‘s not—

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Listen, I am not blaming Obama for this, I‘m blaming the TSA.  I think that they could do a better job of doing this where they don‘t have to pick out grandmothers and 8-year-old children.  That‘s my point.  And I think that this is not about Republicans.  This is about the American people.  And if you want to say that the American people don‘t have a right to complain about—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FEEHERY: -- being frisked by TSA, you‘re entitled to that, but—

MATTHEWS:  OK, you‘re—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  “The Washington Post” and ABC—

FEEHERY:  Well, I think that‘s right.

MATTHEWS: -- took a poll—took a poll—

FEEHERY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS: -- and asked people about this.  Do you oppose the scanners at airports?  64 to 32 don‘t.  Where are you?  Are you the 32?  Are you speaking for the 32?

FEEHERY:  I don‘t—I‘m actually for scanners.  I‘m for scanners.  I don‘t have a problem with scanners.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what—what‘s the fight about here?

FEEHERY:  I don‘t like pat downs.  I think that‘s—

MATTHEWS:  Well, the pat downs only come if you reject the scanner.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute.  You wouldn‘t have to worry about—I know overseas somewhere, wherever you were overseas—I don‘t know what part of the world you were in, but over there they were frisking you—

FEEHERY:  They didn‘t have scanners back then.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Part of the problem with—

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘re get into crazy-land here.  John, all of a sudden, you come on to oppose the craziness of the airport, and we‘re saying 99 percent of it is scanners.

CORN:  Well, part of the problem, Chris—part of the—

MATTHEWS:  No, let him talk.  I‘m sorry.  What‘s your complaint here?

FEEHERY:  Well, I don‘t like the frisking.  That‘s what I think.

MATTHEWS:  You only get frisking if you reject the scanner!

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  The other point that I don‘t like the TSA is doing is how they select the people for the scanning and for the pat downs.  It makes no sense.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  John, John, John, there‘s a line for the scanner.  If you get in that line, you can ask—

FEEHERY:  Right.

CORN: -- not to not be in the scanner, which I will do because I‘d rather be groped than zapped by the radiation.  That‘s my own personal choice.  And if you don‘t do it, then you get—then you get the frisk.  But you don‘t have to get the frisk—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- put you in the scanner.  Let‘s take a look at Charles Krauthammer.  Quote, “This nothing to do with safety.  Ninety-five percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat downs are ridiculously unnecessary.  The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling when the profile of an airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known.”  So he‘s basically—

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY:  Which I agree with that!  I agree with Krauthammer!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who should we profile?  Who should we with profile?

CORN:  Well, the likeliest suspects for—I‘ll tell you who you don‘t profile.  You don‘t profile grandmothers—

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

CORN:  Oh!

FEEHERY: -- and 8-year-old children, which makes no sense!

CORN:  OK, wait a second, John.  What was Richard Reid?  A white Jamaican of British citizenship.  What about “Jihad Jane,” who was elected in March—who was arrested in March?  She was a white woman with blond hair.  The underwear bomber?  He was a Nigerian.  So I‘m for profiling if you go after all white Brits from Jamaica, we go after all Africans, and anybody who‘s petite with blond hair and blue eyes.  Are you with me on this?

FEEHERY:  There is a way to do it that makes a lot more sense than what they‘ve currently done.  And I think that this is—this is popular outrage by the American people.  This is not a Republican conspiracy, as you like to point out.

CORN:  Oh, you—listen, you‘ve—

FEEHERY:  This is people that are very upset about this.

CORN:  You‘ve heard the right-wing talking—

FEEHERY:  And there are better ways to do that.

CORN:  You heard the right-wing talking points—

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s George Will, normally intelligent.  Here‘s George Will.  Let‘s take a look at him.  “What the TSA is doing is mostly security theater, a uniquely”—

CORN:  Which is true.

MATTHEWS: -- “a pageant to reassure passengers that flying is safe.  Reassurance is necessary if commerce is going to flourish.  If Grandma is coming to our house, she may be wanded while barefoot at the airport because democracy, or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment anyway, something, requires the amiable nonsense of pretending that no one has the foggiest idea what an actual potential terrorist might look like.”

Now, there‘s George Will saying what might look like—again, we‘re falling into that trap.  Now, I don‘t know if the enemy is—we know that, certainly, 9/11 guys, a scanner have picked up their—their box cutters.  Scanning, a simple metal scanning should have picked that up.  For some reason, it didn‘t.  I think we ought to be not letting people get on airlines with phony driver‘s licenses, which you can get in most states now.  Some 11 or so states now, you can get phony driver‘s licenses.  When the 9/11 guys were picked—or they went through their bodies, whatever they found, a lot of them had phony driver‘s licenses.  I think we could go through where you‘ve traveled.  They can look at things like that, what your country of origin is, where you came from.  That would be reasonable to check on.  But in the end, it‘s not going to keep us from having people sneak onto planes with dangerous equipment, I think.

CORN:  You know, you can have—

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask you a question, John.  Who are you going to blame if we have an explosion on a plane?

FEEHERY:  Well, first, I‘ll blame the terrorist.

MATTHEWS:  You going to blame—you going to blame the president?

FEEHERY:  I‘ll blame the terrorists.  That‘s what I would blame.  Yes, that‘s what I would blame.  And then I—

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t think—

FEEHERY:  And then I would try to—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- the president the next second?

FEEHERY:  Well, listen—

CORN:  They tried to.  They tried to—

MATTHEWS:  No, let him answer because I think it‘s going to be clear that Sean and the rest of these—

CORN:  They did—they already did that—

MATTHEWS: -- Mark Levin, and all those guys are going to be after the president.

CORN:  They already did that—

MATTHEWS:  The minute we‘re hit.

CORN: -- with the underwear bomber.

MATTHEWS:  And we probably get hit at some point.  There‘s going to be more terrorism as long as we live.  It‘s going to happen.  I mean, it‘s reasonable to assume we can‘t stop all this.  Eventually, something‘s going to happen, and then we‘re going to have to deal with it.  My argument is if the president‘s tough with heavy screening and all kinds of things that people complain about, at least he knows what he‘s facing down the road, that he‘s going to get blamed, as he should be.  You agree with that?

FEEHERY:  Oh, I think that the terrorists—

MATTHEWS:  Well, why don‘t we let him make the decision, if he‘s going to get blamed?

FEEHERY:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  If he‘s going to get blamed, shouldn‘t he decide how to protect us?

FEEHERY:  Listen, I am not blaming President Obama for this.  I think that these procedures could be better.  I think TSA could do a better job.  And I think that this is popular outrage.  That‘s my point of view.

MATTHEWS:  Popular outrage?

CORN:  Let me—let me—

MATTHEWS:  The polls don‘t show it.

CORN:  Let me agree with John.  I think things could do better.  But what‘s happening now is the right and Republican politicians see an opening and they‘re not leading to a conversation that will make anything better.  They‘re just—it‘s just pure exploitation.  And you‘re right, they hope that it fails in some way—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Guys like Rush—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- private planes who are basically trying to stir up this for their own good.  That‘s what‘s going on.

FEEHERY:  I don‘t think that‘s true.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s Rush Limbaugh and the boys, and Sean and the rest of them, and they‘re all doing this.  It‘s your crowd.  It‘s your fault, John Feehery.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming on, John, because I think sometimes you say things on this show you feel you have to say to support your crazy right-wing friends.

FEEHERY:  No!  I think there‘s popular outrage!

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you.

FEEHERY:  I really think there‘s popular outrage!

MATTHEWS:  By the way, I know you‘re not outraged.  You‘re not going to fool me.  Thank you, David Corn.  Thank you, John Feehery.  John, you‘re too normal to be outraged.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: Who will emerge in the field of Republicans to challenge President Obama in 2012?  Will the Republicans go for broke with Sarah Palin or play it safe with Mitt Romney?  That‘s an interesting choice.  Let‘s survey the field and the prospects for president with two former presidential candidates next.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  How politically toxic has Nancy Pelosi become too conservative Democrats?  How‘s this?  Democratic Bill Owens of upstate New York says he may just vote for John Boehner for House Speaker.  Of course, Boehner‘s assured victory based on the Republican majority in the House, but it would be very symbolic if a Democrat voted for a Republican for Speaker.  Owens bucked the trend and survived the mid-terms this year.  Six of his Democratic colleagues in New York state got swept away by the Republican wave.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  Of course I believe that I could beat Barack Obama.  Otherwise, why would I even be contemplating a run?  And again, of course, it is only contemplation at this time.  But I‘d be in it to win it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Sarah Palin last night with Fox‘s Sean Hannity.  Her book tour launched today, and she‘s saying plenty of things to get everyone‘s attention.  Here‘s a little more.  Let‘s listen to Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  What is it that our country needs?  We know we need common sense.  We know we need experience in the Oval Office.  We know we need someone who believes in time-tested truths and a restoration of all that‘s good and exceptional about America, versus the transformation of America that presently we see coming out of the Oval Office.

If there is no one whom I feel is in a position to be able to beat Barack Obama, and if I feel that I am the candidate who can beat Barack Obama, I will run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, how much of 2012 will center around Palin‘s pondering?  And will it even matter if the economy continues to improve and raises President Obama‘s reelection prospects with it?

Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and former Colorado senator Gary Hart is the author of a new book called “The Thunder and the Sunshine.”  Thank you, Senator, for joining us tonight.

Senator Hart, you know, you came so close in ‘84.  I mean, it was so close, until the way that—you won, like, seven out of nine contests on Super Tuesday back in ‘84, I remember.  And somehow, the media decided that you had—that the other guy was still in the race, Walter Mondale, and he turned the corner on you.  What do you think this race looks like this time?

GARY HART (R-CO), FMR. SEN., FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Much too early to say, obviously.  It is amusing to hear the former two-year governor of Alaska talking about the need for experience in the Oval Office, but I think we‘re going to hear a lot of that kind of nonsense.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Pat, this race, I know early it is—I remember Jack Germond always says these early polls don‘t mean anything. 

Well, let‘s take a look at this line-up right now because it is

interesting.  I find it fascinating that Sarah Palin right now is leading,

19 points in the Quinnipiac poll.  Obviously, her name ID must be about

100.  Mitt Romney‘s also very high.  He‘s at 18.  Nobody is blowing it

away.  Nobody‘s getting over 20 points, which is to me interesting.  Mike

Huckabee, who is much less well known than those two, is up there, even

with them, basically, at 17.  Then you got Newt Gingrich, which is probably

he‘s probably got a huge negative.  He‘s up there at 15.  And Pawlenty, who‘s very unknown, is at 6.  What does that tell you?  Anything?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, it tells me that those four are the front four, and I don‘t think any candidate will break through and beat them unless he‘s got either what Goldwater had and McGovern had, which is a great cause, Chris, and I don‘t see a cause candidate out there, or charisma.  Now, Reagan had cause and charisma when he ran against Ford and ran him even, pretty much, in that race to the nomination.

But I think you‘re going to get your nominee out of those four.  And if Palin runs, I think the only thing that can stop her from being the conservative candidate that goes down to the wire as against the establishment candidate is a Huckabee getting in there, taking away those votes and maybe beating her in Iowa.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think about the power of the West, Senator?  I get the feeling that Palin is very smart to play on geography.  She plays up the mama grizzly role.  She plays up the fact she‘s from the Northwest.  You‘re from Colorado.  You‘re a Westerner.  Is that something that she could start with and that could really give her a hook that the other candidates from the East and the more traditional power plays—power centers of the country don‘t have?

HART:  Well, two observations, Chris.  First of all, Pat‘s thought about the conservative versus establishment candidate—seems to me, every candidate‘s going to be conservative.  It‘s a question of who‘s the farthest right.  And second, the only poll that matters right now is one that could be taken among the activists.  The first primary is who gets the activists, who gets the people in Iowa, New Hampshire, who are, again, as Pat said, motivated by cause or personality.

And these broad-based polls of all Republicans or people at large just simply don‘t mean a thing. 

MATTHEWS:  Pat—

BUCHANAN:  Well, I—

MATTHEWS: -- you had the activists, you had the pitchfork people.  I saw you up in New Hampshire.  Those were lively rallies.  You got people out.  You beat the—you beat Bob Dole up there. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

Well, here is my problem is, I was unable to clear the field of other challengers.  Forbes‘ money kept him in.  And Keyes‘ motivation kept him in.  So, they drained off an awful lot of the anti-establishment Republican vote.  And I needed it all, and I didn‘t get it all. 

Now, you take Reagan.  When he was in there against Ford, he got it all.  1980, I—I disagree with this extent with Senator Hart.  There are establishment Republicans.  All—Senator Hart‘s right.  They‘re all going to run as conservatives, but some are authentic, and others are basically Washington-based, establishment-based. 

But, Chris, where you‘re somewhat mistaken, I think, is this.  Palin does play against the East and the media.  But, inside Delaware, there was obviously enough Republican conservatives to knock off the most popular Republican in that state. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, let‘s take a look at this “New York Times” poll, recently analyzed a new prediction by a Yale economist named Ray Fair.  Never heard of the guy, but he writes: “If the recovery is robust, which my economic model predicts”—that‘s his economic model—“will begin to happen in the middle of 2011, Obama wins easily.  If the recovery is only modest, the election will be close, with an edge for the Republicans.  If there is a double-dip recession, Obama loses by a fairly large amount.”

Well, that has to be the most obvious prediction I have ever heard in my life, Senator. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He is basically saying, if the economy is strong, bet on Obama.  If it is bad, bet on the Republican. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t know how you get the Ph.D. by thinking at that length, but my thought is this.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It seems to me that when you went in that race in ‘83 and ‘84, when you were running—and you were a real contender with Mondale there—you were the outside guy.  He was the inside guy.  We all know that.

But it seems to me that nobody knew that the unemployment rate would drop down to that magical number of 7.  And, all of a sudden, Reagan, it‘s morning in America.  They‘re running the ads.  The sunshine is going.  He beats the heck out of Mondale, beats him 49 states. 

What do you think the unemployment rate has to get down to for this president?  He‘s up around 9.5 now.  It‘s stuck up there.  Does he have to get down?  I mean, can you point to—can I we all be economists here and say, this election turns on one number; if it is down to 6, Obama is in like—like he could be doing anything, it will be 6.  If it‘s up around 9, no matter how sweet his talk, he is gone? 

Your thoughts on the number? 

HART:  Well, say, if it is four, he gets—if it is 4, he gets reelected. 

(LAUGHTER)

HART:  I don‘t think there‘s a magic number.  If the perception is that people are going back to work and companies are finally investing in productivity and new technologies, and people are feeling optimistic, then he gets reelected. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know about that.

MATTHEWS:  If it‘s morning in America again.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t know about that, for this reason. 

Obama has—it has astounded me.  He‘s—I mean, white America has just abandoned him.  And it‘s still a huge part of the electorate.  Secondly, he got that victory on the enthusiasm, energy and fire of young people, African-Americans and Hispanics. 

I don‘t see that energy and enthusiasm yet.  And—and, Chris, quite frankly, Obama‘s been demonized in the eyes of the American people, a huge number of them out there who might normally drift Democratic, to an extent that I couldn‘t have imagined two years ago, when he had that huge celebratory event on the Mall. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, yes, but, you know, Reagan was demonized as well in 1982, as we all remember.  He lost 26 seats.  I was on the other side.  I know the success all the Democrats felt.

BUCHANAN:  Right.  But—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And they looked at Gary Hart, and they looked at Mondale as real potentials at that point. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But Reagan was rooted in Middle America.  There is no doubt about it. 

I don‘t think Obama is, or he is not perceived to be. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s right, but when you say white America, Pat—

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, that‘s the majority of the vote. 

MATTHEWS:  Of course, but you are basically saying that he has the loyalty of Hispanic and African-American voters that sticks with him through terrible times. 

The question is whether the general population will come back to him when the times get better. 

Your thoughts, Senator Hart? 

By the way, tell us briefly, your book, “The Thunder and the Sunshine,” a memoir, a political memoir, would you say? 

HART:  That‘s—that‘s exactly right. 

It details the McGovern campaign, the two Senate terms, and a number of interesting experiences that I had afterwards, including remaking the Russian telephone system, among other things. 

But it‘s—it really is an effort to create some history—not create it, but—but to portray the history of the last 40 years, through my eyes, at least.  And I try to do so fairly.  Thank you for asking. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we will be back on that.  I want to read that book.

We will have you back on that at some point. 

Thank you so much, Pat Buchanan.

And, thank you, Gary Hart.

Up next:  The Republican Party offers some advice to incoming freshmen.  That‘s ahead in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: House rules.  The Republican leadership just came out with a

144-page guidebook for incoming Republican freshmen.  The basic?  Read and

re-read the U.S. Constitution.  Keeping up with the party line, don‘t be

afraid to say no.  And always assume you‘re on camera when you‘re in the House chamber.  Even if you‘re simply looking at your cell phone, you might appear to be asleep.  My personal favorite, if you don‘t want to see an activity or event reported on the front page of your local newspaper, don‘t do it. 

Well, it‘s, of course, all good stuff, but you can only believe what you discover yourself.  I predict that that warning about your behavior showing up on the front page of your newspaper will be overlooked, to some new member‘s big embarrassment.  And we will be documenting it all right here in the “Sideshow.”   

Speaking of how-to guides, Rand Paul is coming out with one of his own.  Kentucky‘s senator-elect has signed a book deal on his plan to make the Tea Party vision a reality.  “The Tea Party Comes to Washington”—or “Goes to Washington”—is set to hit bookshelves in February. 

My big question, when do these people write these books?  Do they dictate them?  How does it get done? 

Finally, Rahm Emanuel has some fences to mend.  The subletter, the sub-renter of his Chicago apartment—or house, rather—Rob Halpin is the guy‘s name—has refused to move out until his lease is up come June of next year. 

Adding insult to injury, Rahm‘s subletter has now filed papers to run against Rahm for mayor.  Talk about tenants‘ rights. 

Now for tonight‘s “Big Number.” 

Republicans say they were given a mandate on Election Day to repeal health care, but is that what Americans really want?  In a new Marist/McClatchy poll, how many registered voters say they want to either keep health care reform or actually make it stronger?  Fifty-one percent, a narrow majority. 

Republicans toeing a dangerous line here, of course.  A majority of voters don‘t want health care reform going anywhere, 51 percent, tonight‘s very interesting number. 

Up next: Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Nikki Haley, Michele Bachmann.  Let‘s talk about how women on both sides of the aisle are changing the face of American politics.  And it is all happening right now. 

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, investors are gobbling up stocks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Dow soaring 151 points, the S&P 500 jumping by 17, and the Nasdaq soaring 48 points.

Wall Street responding to some encouraging economic reports today.  Consumer sentiment and spending are up.  Spending rose for the fourth month in a row in October, with inflation hovering near record lows.  Consumer sentiment rising to its highest levels since June on signs of improvement in jobs market and early discounts from retailers. 

Well, those retailers have been enjoying some really big gains this week on robust pre-holiday sales and encouraging outlooks.  Look at Guess today, soaring more than 10 percent on blockbuster profits. 

Meantime, mortgage applications rose to their highest level in more than six months, boosting many of the homebuilders.  Caterpillar also higher after marketing a $1 billion bond to Chinese investors. 

And Oracle jumped after rival SAP was ordered to pay $1.3 billion in damages for stealing Oracle‘s software. 

That is it from us.  We‘re first in business worldwide—back to

HARDBALL.

And happy Thanksgiving. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SARAH PALIN‘S ALASKA”) 

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  A couple of my girlfriends threw me my baby shower right here in this shooting range, my first baby shower.  And I love to share that story because it gets the liberals all wee-wee-ed up. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can‘t tell where it is going. 

PALIN:  I know. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Yes. 

PALIN:  Don‘t retreat.  Just reload. 

They could do some damage here.  We need to calm these boys down real quick. 

Sheesh!  That hurts like crap. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Welcome to become HARDBALL. 

That, of course, is Sarah Palin in her new show, “Sarah Palin‘s Alaska.”  She is shooting, fishing, and apparently thriving in that rugged terrain.  And in the rugged terrain of politics, she continues to chart obviously her own course. 

So, how are Sarah Palin and the other leading women politicians changing the game of politics? 

Michelle Bernard is an MSNBC political analyst.  And Joan Walsh is editor at large for Salon.com. 

So, I want Joan to bear with us now as we go to the right, we go to the hard right.  We will start with Sarah Palin. 

(LAUGHTER)

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  All right. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘ll tell you, politics is either changing, or this person, Sarah Palin, is completely off the page. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Is she smart to say that women have to change their identity in this interesting world of sexual politics, that this kind of rugged terrain, out --  you know, this—whatever you want to call it out there, Euell Gibbons world that she is living in right now?  Is this selling?  Is it smart politics for a woman? 

(LAUGHTER)

BERNARD:  It is absolutely selling.

I don‘t want to say that it is smart politics for women—for a woman, but the fact that it is working is telling me that it is smart politics.  There is an audience for this.  People like Sarah Palin.  You see hundreds of thousands of people standing in line to get signed autographs of her books.  And, you know, viewership of her new television show seems to be going very well. 

MATTHEWS:  Describe her.  If you have never seen her—obviously, she‘s an attractive person.  If you‘ve never seen her, know anything about her, how would you describe the particular appeal of Sarah Palin and what‘s new about her as a political leader in this country?  What‘s different? 

BERNARD:  Well, I mean, what‘s different about her is that she is very different than what we would call the second wave of feminist.  She is very feminine.  She is attractive.  She makes no bones to sort of talk about—not really talk about her looks, but show off about the fact that she is a woman and enjoys being a different type of woman.

This whole thing with the hunting and the fishing and the ruggedness way of life that she lives in Alaska is not something that you normally think about when you think about a woman, and particularly a female politician.  And that is something that is very different for the country. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that in non-ideological terms, Joan, this—what we are looking at here is a sort of Trapper John look here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  She is out there, out there in the wilderness, holding her own.  Obviously, she‘s got makeup on.  She looks attractive, obviously, as you were saying, Michelle.

But she‘s definitely got—she‘s like what we used to call I guess a good sport, guys would say, because she is out there doing guy stuff, but clearly her own way.  And she is the leader.  She is not tagging along with Todd here.  She is the leader. 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this in political terms? 

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  I think the West has always been very hospitable to women. 

And she‘s picking up on that.  We had Jeannette Rankin in Montana. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WALSH:  And I think she is also benefiting from feminism, frankly, in the sense that she emerged on the stage the mother of five children with an infant in her arms, and America accepted that.  There was almost no debate, Chris.  It was really interesting. 

I think Dr. Laura, of all people, went after her.  But, you know, millions of American women and feminists had fought for the right to say, we can be mothers and we can be leaders.  And she comes in and she shows that she can do it.  And she—in that sense, you know, I applaud that.  I applaud her as a role model for someone who can do both. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Why do men seem to like that—I‘m just generalizing.  Well, you can challenge me with this.  This is what the show is about. 

BERNARD:  OK. 

MATTHEWS:  They seem to be going for her, and they didn‘t go for Hillary Clinton.  Is that ideology, or is it statement?  Is there something different here than just pure left-right politics? 

WALSH:  I think there is a lot more than just pure left-right politics. 

I think most—when she first came on the scene, I remember sitting at the Republican Convention and watching that speech that she gave.  And most men, whether they were left-of-center or right-of-center, were saying, wow, she is so attractive.  She is so good-looking. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But will they make her president? 

BERNARD:  Oh, I—no, I don‘t think anyone who thinks they can see Russia from their home in Alaska is ever going to be elected president of the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that is tough. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Joan—I was going to ask Joan to trump that one. 

Let‘s go. 

WALSH:  I can‘t.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Throughout the midterm race, women were challenging—this is the part I find interesting—challenging the manliness of either their opponents or certain reporters. 

Let‘s listen to the record of this strange campaign in the gender sense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Man up, Harry Reid. 

You need to understand that we have a problem with Social Security. 

ROBIN CARNAHAN (D), MISSOURI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  So, I think, if you want to repeal health care reform, and let insurance companies go back to their worst abuses, Congressman, then you ought to repeal your own first, and man up, and do what you are asking other people to do. 

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, FORMER DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  My opponent is addicted to a culture of spending, waste, fraud and abuse,, whether it‘s spending tax dollars on men‘s fashion shows or to pay off his cronies with sweetheart pension deals.  

You know, these are the type of cheap, underhanded, unmanly tactics that we have come to expect from Obama‘s favorite Republican, Mike Castle.  You know, I released a statement today saying, Mike, this is not a bake-off, get your man-pants on.

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  Impotent, limp and gutless reporters take anonymous sources and cite them as being factual references.

Jan Brewer has the cojones that our president does not have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Joan Walsh, I got to leave you full—the full platform now to respond to these behaviors here—women taking down men on their masculinity, let‘s be blunt.  That‘s what is going on here.  What‘s that about?

WALSH:  It‘s creepy.  It‘s very creepy.  And you know, I know that there was one Democrat in that clip, but it‘s become a kind of Republican theme and I don‘t like it at all.  You know, we‘ve fought to have women not judged exclusively on their sexuality or their femininity.  And so, to use this—to use women—be to put down men in this particular way, particularly Democratic men, I‘m sorry, I think it‘s creepy, and I think it‘s a little bit disturbing.

MATTHEWS:  One thing is they all lost, they all lost.  Everyone we showed lost.  Maybe they were desperation moves on the parts of the candidates regardless of their agenda, just taking shots.

BERNARD:  I think they took pot shots.  But I think it also just shows that we‘ve got female candidates, some of whom are good candidates and some of whom are bad.

MATTHEWS:  Who you do you like on your side?

BERNARD:  I love Lisa Murkowski.  I absolutely love her.  I think she is the heroine story of 2010.

MATTHEWS:  Write-in.

BERNARD:  She was a write-in candidate, second person in the United States history to this.  I think second person since 1954.

MATTHEWS:  Who do you like more, Strum Thurmond, when he did it?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  My favorite Republicans are Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.  But this year, Lisa Murkowski gets my vote.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You got your pick (ph).

Joan, who do you like this year on the Democratic side?  It‘s not as rich a field because obviously Democrats didn‘t win that many race.  But I‘m looking at—what are your thoughts first?  And then I‘ll throw in my little two cents.

WALSH:  Well, you know, one thing we need to point out, even though this was the year of the woman, supposedly, the Republican woman—we were down three women in Congress, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WALSH:  But women, Democratic women still outnumber Republicans two to one.  So, it‘s not as though the Republicans are suddenly—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WALSH: -- you know, at parity with Democrats.  So I just want to get that out.

In terms of, you know, rising stars, I think Kirsten Gillibrand is a star.  I love the way she stood up to the wealthy New Yorkers who were going to—who were going to bring in our good friend from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you.  Boy, she‘s tougher than she seems.  She is tough.

WALSH:  She is very tough.  She is Albany tough, you know?

MATTHEWS:  I like the fact that women are getting executive positions all over the country.  These governorships are, in many ways, the jumping off point for the presidency.  All these top—I know the House races went against the numbers game was wrong.  But in terms of executive jobs, big-time decision-making, “the buck stops here” jobs, a lot of women are getting those jobs around the country.

BERNARD:  Absolutely.  The other thing that I like on top of that it is the diversity of it, that no, we don‘t have as many female Republicans being elected as Democrats but the bottom line is as women and as Miami people of color, we don‘t do ourselves any good—any good service—

MATTHEWS:  And the hero of this all, Hillary Clinton broke a lot of glass last time around.

BERNARD:  Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  A lot of ceilings were broken.  And, Joan, you have a right to say a lot more than I do.

Thank you, Michelle Bernard.  And thank you, Joan Walsh, my dear, for this year.  And thank you.  It‘s great having you as a colleague, as both of you, as the case.  One of the things to be thankful for.

Let‘s have some thanks for our troops, by the way.  We‘re joined coming up next by the first service member wounded in Iraq.  I know this guy a little bit.  What an impressive guy.  Wait until you hear him.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  So, who do voters want to decide the political agenda in the New Year‘s?  Well, a new Gallup poll for “USA Today” show 28 percent of voters want President Obama to have the most influence in setting a congressional agenda.  But a nearly equal number, 27 percent, say the Tea Party should drive government policy.  Another 23 percent say Republican congressional leaders should set the agenda.  A very divided government looking our way.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We are back.

Among the many things we‘re thankful for this Thanksgiving are our troops and veterans, of course.

Retired Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva was the first American injured in the Iraq War.  He lost his leg as a result of those injuries and was awarded a Purple Heart.  Today, he‘s spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign and its efforts to repeal the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.  Eric joins me now.

Eric, I‘m so impressed with what you said at the Human Rights gala up in Boston last week.  I was lucky to be there and part of the program.

Sir, it‘s an honor to meet you.  Thank you for your service.

I think the American people would benefit from you to give us a little capsule, you know, narrative of what happened to you when you arrived in Iraq.

ERIC ALVA, FMR. U.S. MARINE:  It‘s good to see you again, Chris.

It was only about three hours when we started the ground invasion and I was on a logistical convoy.  And, unfortunately, on one of the times I stepped out of my vehicle, I triggered a landmine.  My injuries were severe, a broken right arm with nerve damage, broken left leg and then as you stated, my right leg had to be amputated.

It‘s only estimated I was there for three hours.  Of course, giving me the dubious distinction of being the first American injured in Iraq.  So, you know, I‘m blessed to be alive, as you were talking about things to be thankful for.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I met you up here in Boston, didn‘t know you lost your leg.  You get around pretty well.  How is it going in that regard?

ALVA:  You know, most people don‘t really notice that I lost my leg

until I actually talk about it in my speech or I guess it‘s, you know, just

you know, I have a very good prosthetist who, you know, has helped me get back to living back a normal life and walking and doing things that I enjoy, like scuba diving and skiing and, you know, living my life again now as a gay proud marine.

           

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about that gay part, because you‘re very obviously a well-rounded guy.  I enjoyed meeting you and I‘m so impressed with knowing a bit.

Tell me about coming out and that decision to admit to your—or openly state, let‘s put it this way, objectively, your orientation as a gay man.  What was that about?  Why did you do that?

After having already served, gotten—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- have gotten your Purple Heart.  It‘s all behind you.  Why did you decide to say when I was there, when I did get blown up, when I was serving my country, when I was taking risks for my country, I was also a gay man?  Why did you say it after the fact?

ALVA:  You know, I actually started seeing things happen in the contrary.  Mostly, I guess here in my own state when we Proposition 2 to amend the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage, and then I also started just noticing other things in other states in—around the country that I started to realize that as a person who had made a sacrifice, you know, it was for the rights and the freedoms of the people of this country, not just the selective few, not like the Palins and the McCains or the Boehners—they were for people like myself and other people of diverse nature.

I‘m a veteran.  I‘m disabled.  I‘m Hispanic and I am a gay man.  That‘s what makes up the people of this country, diversity.  And I knew I had to speak out as someone who had paid—made a sacrifice for the people of this country, not just the selected few.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s get to the gist of this.  How did—how did people react from your observation and personal experience in the military to fellow members in the regiment when in their outfits that they figure are gay and they don‘t say they‘re gay because you‘re not allowed to?  But when they figured someone is gay, how do they react to it?  Do they get along with them?  Do they accept it as part of the world or how do they react in your experience?

ALVA:  In my experience, as most—in units that I served in, you know, in 13 years in the Marine Corps and post me telling people, every single person was always supportive.  They treated me the same, you know, with respect.  And I think because they know—they knew as a person, as a 5‘1” marine, no one wanted to take me on, but they knew I could do my job.  It was—it was about just me doing my job.  Not about who, you know, my orientation.

MATTHEWS:  Do you there‘s any sense among the smart people who had done the training who have faced the fire of the enemy, which most of us have not, to know what it‘s like to know you‘re going to face guys trying to kill you, is there any difference between a gay and a straight person in terms of that ability to be a warrior?  What‘s your experience to that, what do you think that thought is among the people among who know what the hell they‘re talking about?

ALVA:  You know, that‘s a good point because the people who actually are the ones who are proponents on keeping “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” it‘s kind of ludicrous that they‘re the ones who want to get rid of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” but have never served in uniform.

I served in Somalia during ‘92-‘93 before “Black Hawk Down.”  Then serving in Iraq and, you know, around the world.  I am someone who knows from firsthand experience what people need to do to do their job as far as camaraderie, you know, discipline, you know, unit cohesion and the marines who know me today will back me up to say, you know, he did his job.  And we‘re the ones who know what it‘s like to serve in combat in harm‘s way to make sure that we accomplished a mission.

The people who constantly, constantly say that we can‘t have gays in the military are the ones who have never put the uniform on and don‘t even know what it is like.  And the people, like Senator McCain, who have wore the uniform, they are just avoiding the fact that, you know, we can do our job.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

ALVA:  And they were aware that, you know, ever since this country‘s independence, gay and men and women have served.  And we have functioned as a good armed forces that represents, you know, what the American people are about.

MATTHEWS:  All right.  People can disagree but we can all thank you for your service, and argument is a part of American life.  You‘ve got the best case I think.

Eric Alva distinguished himself serving our country—thank you so much.  Good luck in your fight for open service.

When we return—

ALVA:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: -- let me finish with something I‘m thankful, the opportunity do this job every night.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight on this eve of Thanksgiving to give thanks for this opportunity I have.

As you can tell, it‘s really fun, even toward the end of the week when we all get tired now matter how good the job.

What I‘m thanking for is to have this chance to basically be myself, a citizen of this country, and to show my human reaction to the events and issues of the day.  I‘ve always cared about them, actually.  Since I was very young, I cared about the two enduring issues of national government, what role do we Americans—what we should be doing in the world and what role the U.S. government, the government here in Washington, should play in our lives at home.  Those are the central question—and because times changed, they will always, always have an answer that may differ.  It‘s why we have these debates.

I want to make a couple of promises to myself and to you tonight in how I play my role on these matters of who should lead us and, of course, what our government should be doing.  I‘m allowed to have an opinion on this show, that‘s obvious.  People actually want to know what I think, that‘s why they watch.  But my first job is to get the facts straight, to tell you what I believe to be the actual reality we‘re confronting.

Nobody needs propaganda, certainly not you people, who tend to find out what‘s really happening, reality—the cold realities what you want because it‘s the only thing that you can really use to build your own opinions.  You can hear what I think or what someone else thinks, but you can‘t think or at least not usefully without knowing the facts and their true proportion and context.  Can you?  Can anybody?

Second, fairness is important to me.  If I catch someone doing something, an unfair TV ad, a dishonest attack or claim, I will hit them hard, even if I may agree with them, generally.  I‘m quite willing to call them as a see them.

Third, you need to hear the other side.  This show, HARDBALL, is based on the argument back-and-forth.  It‘s built on tough questions, on confronting people who may or may not know what they‘re talking about, forcing them to belly up to the bar and answer the damn question.

If I‘m on, on my game, if you will, I know precisely what question to ask that will open up the reality of an issue, will impact the matter for all of us, including me.  And you, the hardballers out there, only get to hear from both sides if I get people who have different views to come on this show and defend themselves, at least do their best to defend themselves.

So, this is HARDBALL, a show I always wanted to do—fact-based, heat-seeking, asking truth of those with power.  And where I think I‘ve found some bit of truth speaking right back to that power, right in its face.

For this, I‘m truly thankful, because if I weren‘t doing it here, I‘d be doing it over the dinner table or anywhere else I could find someone to listen to me.  As Donald Segretti of Watergate infamy once scribbled on a report of his latest dirty trick, “Love this job.”

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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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