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updated 12/1/2010 1:53:08 PM ET 2010-12-01T18:53:08

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Trish Regan, Eugene Robinson, David Axelrod, Sen. Sherrod Brown, David Corn, James Rubin, P. Clarke Cooper, Aubrey Sarvis

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Let‘s get together.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews out in Los Angeles. 

Leading off tonight: High noon.  What does President Obama want, and what are his powers to get it?  And what can he do if the Republicans don‘t do what he wants?  What leverage does he have to, A, keep the tax cuts for the middle class, B, save the deal struck with the Russians over nuclear weapons, and C, get Senate approval for ending “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell”? 

At the top of tonight‘s HARDBALL, White House adviser David Axelrod, plus a Democratic senator we expect to say, Mr. President, use your power.  My question for the senator will be: Show me the power this president has to get Republicans to do what he wants this December.

Plus, MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough has said the emperor has no clothes, or is it the empress?  Joe wrote in “Politico” today that it‘s time for the GOP to, quote, “man up” and take down Sarah Palin before she takes down the party‘s chances in 2011.  Let the fallout begin.

Also, the latest blast from WikiLeaks.  Who in the State Department is saying the president of Argentina doesn‘t have her head screwed on?  Oh, by the way, does the government have any way to outlaw this kind of leaking?  We do have a free press in this country.

And the Pentagon released its long-awaited report on repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” and a huge majority of service members say they have no problem with repeal.  The opposition‘s coming from the Marines and combat Army troops.  So will enough Republicans sign up to end DADT?

Finally, let me tell you some things the pols keep saying when they know darn well they‘re not true.

Let‘s start with the president‘s meeting with congressional leadership today.  David Axelrod joins us after a long solstice (ph), senior adviser to President Obama.  Thank you, David.  It‘s good to have you back.

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I guess the big question is, how does he deal with Republicans, get somewhere in the middle politically and not lose the support he needs from the progressive left?

AXELROD:  Look, I think the most important thing to do right now is to do the things the American people expect and want us to do.  And one is to make sure that they don‘t wake up on January 1st with a very large tax increase because the Bush-ear tax cuts were scheduled to expire at that time, and I think there‘s a great sense of urgency on the part of the president.  I think that urgency is shared on the part of the Republicans, to make sure that that doesn‘t happen.

And so, you know, I—I think the greatest—I heard you say before, What is his leverage?  The greatest leverage in politics, Chris, as you know—you‘re a—you‘re an old practitioner of it—is public opinion.  I think the American people do not want gridlock.  They do not want inaction.  They want us to use this time productively.  They want us to deal with the things that are foremost in their minds and of great concern to the country.

MATTHEWS:  If it comes down to late December, before Christmas and

Hanukkah, and the president‘s forced with making a decision—I want to

protect the tax cuts for the middle class, the Republicans are not giving -

would he then compromise with them and give them what they want, tax cuts for the rich, if he has to?

AXELROD:  Look—look, as you know, the president‘s position is he believes we should have a permanent tax cut for the middle class.  The middle class has taken a beating in this recession, and for the decade before, where incomes declined by 5 percent.  He also believes that we can‘t afford what the Republicans have asked for, which is the same tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent, which would cost $700 billion we don‘t have.  Those are the parameters that he‘s set.

Now, I‘m not going to negotiate with you here.  What I heard in that room today was some good back-and-forth, really constructive, not rhetorical, but good constructive back-and-forth on that issue.  Each leader and the president have designated high-level representatives to talk this through, and you know, I‘m hopeful that there‘ll be action.

MATTHEWS:  Well, when the Republicans get control of the House of Representatives next year, and more senators, could they then get the tax cut they want for the very rich, and therefore, knowing that, could the president say, OK, I want a permanent tax cut for everybody under $250,000 a year, but the other stuff, we‘ll give you an extension for a year or so?  Is that in the cards?

AXELROD:  Like I said, Chris, I‘m not going to go through all the options.  I think that—I gave you the parameters, and within those parameters—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

AXELROD: -- we want to sit down and talk.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the president‘s “must” list.  Does he have a “must” list?  For example, DADT repeal?  Does he have a “must” list in terms of beating Jon Kyl and getting a vote in the Senate on new START?  Are those musts that he has to achieve in his heart before Christmas?

AXELROD:  Let me say this.  It‘s not a matter of beating Senator Kyl, it‘s a—and I‘m not sure that Senator Kyl, at the end of the day, isn‘t going to support the START treaty.  I didn‘t hear that.  He was in that room today.  I didn‘t hear that today.  The START treaty is a matter of urgent national security.  We can‘t—we can‘t verify what‘s going on on the ground in Russia right now because the treaty isn‘t in effect.  It impacts our relationship with Russia, which has been pivotal in terms of our strategy with Iran, North Korea.  We feel a sense of urgency to get that done, and we think we can get that done.

As you know, the “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” report came out today.  Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen were both very strong on why we ought to begin that process of ending “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” and ask for congressional support on this.

I believe that we can get many of these things done, all of them, if we‘re disciplined.  And the spirit in that room today was one of cooperation.  It was one—I think there was a recognition that people are going to be frustrated if all they see is political posturing and an unwillingness to get things done—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

AXELROD: -- in these next few weeks.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about the DADT.  The report came out positively for those who want to see open service, and I think you know that as well as I.

AXELROD:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s the question.  You have about four Republicans out there, maybe Voinovich, Snowe, Collins, maybe Brown up in Massachusetts, who may—maybe a longer list.  I hear we‘re going to hear on the show tonight a longer list of possible yeses for repeal.  Does the president have—again, my word—leverage?  Can he bring fire power into Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, on behalf of his cause?

AXELROD:  Yes, look, I think that there is a tremendous amount of energy behind this repeal.  And believe me, we hear from it all—folks all time on this issue.  I‘m sure they‘re hearing from folks all the time on this issue.  There‘s a strong majority in this country to repeal this law.  It deprives our military of talented people.  It‘s not good for our national security, and it‘s not consistent with our sense of fairness.  So I think that those senators and others are hearing from their constituents, and you know, I‘m hopeful that we can move on this before they go home for the holidays.

MATTHEWS:  Great.  It‘s great having you on.  David Axelrod, thanks for joining us—

AXELROD:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS: -- senior adviser to the president—

AXELROD:  Good to see you.

MATTHEWS: -- from the White House.

Now for a view from the Hill, let‘s go to Senator Sherrod Brown.  He‘s a Democrat from Ohio.  Let‘s listen to this.  I guess we‘re not going to listen to it.  Let‘s go on right—let‘s go right now to you, Senator.  The question is, should the president deal with the Republicans and compromise on taxes and other issues, or should he just throw up his hands and say, I‘m going to straightarm you guys, I‘ve got the power, you don‘t?  What should be his approach?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO:  Well, I don‘t—it depends on what—you know, how you ask the question.  Do you want the president to sit and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate and get nowhere, when you‘ve got a Republican leader in the Senate that says his major goal in the next two years is to see Obama not get reelected, and when they are not willing to move off on their tax cut for the rich at all, for millionaires and billionaires?  I think the president—I‘m fine with him talking to them for a couple of days and trying to work this out.  But I want to see this middle class tax cut extended, and I want to see us—see it—

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

BROWN: -- expire for upper-income people.

MATTHEWS:  But who doesn‘t—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But who doesn‘t want the—but who doesn‘t want the middle class tax cut extension?  You‘re on the side of the angels with that baby.  My question to you—and this is the cutting question.  It‘s Christmas Eve, and the Republicans are saying, We‘re not going to let you get a bill through the Senate.  You‘re not getting the 60 votes, you‘re not getting the vote on the other body unless you give us the full tax cut.  What would you say if you were sitting in the White House, No way, Jose?  What would you say?

BROWN:  I‘d say, No way, Jose.  I‘d say we should keep those—we should keep the Senate and House in session, continuing—again showing them that we‘re for extending the tax cuts for the middle class but not for millionaires and billionaires.  And then Republicans eventually flinch come January because in the end—you know, 70 percent of the public knows that in the end, Republicans are there for the rich.  I mean, that‘s—they‘re the party that always protects—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROWN: -- the wealthiest people in our country.  Do a showdown and say to the country, Don‘t—we‘re not going to let the Republicans hold this middle class tax cut—this middle class tax hostage on behalf of the rich.  And eventually, I think the Republicans give in on this.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, you‘re right about the rich.  People think the Republicans are out for the rich, but most Republicans are rich, as you know.  And number two, your party doesn‘t have a whole lot of street cred on cutting taxes.  Most people know Democrats believe in government.  They know government costs money.  They‘re not the tax cutters.  They don‘t play that game—

BROWN:  Well—

MATTHEWS: -- the Republicans play all the time about—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  So do you think you‘ve got the cred to go into Christmas Eve and say to the American people, We‘re fighting for the middle class tax cuts and you‘re going to believe us?

BROWN:  Well, first, I don‘t agree—

MATTHEWS:  Will they believe it?

BROWN: -- with that presumption, Chris.  I understand you‘re saying that, but that was sort of—that was years ago.  It‘s Democrats that cut taxes with the Recovery Act.  Almost 40 percent of those Recovery Act dollars, if you will, were tax cuts for a huge swathe of the middle class.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  Fair enough.  That‘s true.

BROWN:  That‘s what we did.  That‘s what Clinton did, by and large, in the ‘90s on several different cases.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BROWN:  I mean, we do that as Democrats.  The Republicans sing it better.  They read off the page, to mix a metaphor, better perhaps, but we‘re actually doing it.  And I think the answer is, yes, the public—you‘ve got to bright—you‘ve got to draw a bright line.  It‘s really whose side are you on.  The Republicans are on the sides of millionaires and billionaires.  We‘re on the side of the middle class.  I think there‘s no better way—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

BROWN: -- to show that than this tax vote.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s a guy that‘s not afraid to say he‘s on the side of the millionaires.  Here‘s Eric Cantor of Richmond, Virginia, on the “Today” show this morning, talking tax cuts for the very rich.  Here he is defending their cause with Matt Lauer.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST:  What you‘re telling me is no compromise whatsoever on the Bush-era tax cuts.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MINORITY WHIP:  Well, listen, Matt, one of two things is going to happen in January.  Either taxes go up or they stay the same.  Nobody‘s getting a tax cut here, so there‘s no compromise or not on that particular issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of that?  I mean, he‘s certainly squirreling around there a bit.  I mean, what do you think he‘s talking about, It‘s not a tax—look, the bottom line is the American people are going to have their taxes go up in January, if the Republicans, you‘re saying, hold out for the rich, that‘ll happen because it ain‘t going to happen.  But you‘re saying they‘re going to buckle.

BROWN:  Yes, Congressman Cantor either failed English class or failed logic class or failed history class because these tax cuts for the rich that Bush did twice, Chris, in ‘01 and ‘03, as you know, resulted in very little economic growth.  We saw only one million jobs created in the Bush years, 22 million created in the Clinton years when we reached a balanced budget with a fairer tax system.  And there is no—there‘s no real history illustrating that these tax cuts for the rich result in jobs.

It‘s extending unemployment benefits that creates economic activity that creates jobs, not giving a millionaire an extra $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 in tax cuts—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

BROWN: -- that they likely won‘t spend because they‘re already buying what they‘re going to buy anyway.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re the best there is in this argument.  I got to ask you one last question.  What bee does Jon Kyl have in his bonnet that he wants to bring us back to the cold war?  Why does this guy want to—is he in bed with the craziest of the neocons?  Why does he want to kill this treaty with the Soviet Union—the former Soviet Union and bring it back to the Soviet Union?  What is this guy up to?  And how can one man screw a treaty with the Russians?

BROWN:  Well, I think it‘s because Mitch McConnell put the talking points under his door that simply said—

MATTHEWS:  Ah!

BROWN: -- the most important thing is to see Barack Obama fail and not

not be reelected.  They don‘t want Barack Obama—

MATTHEWS:  Ah!

BROWN: -- to have a foreign policy victory.  All the major Republicans in this country, those that are out of office now, mostly of them, all the former secretaries of state and all that—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BROWN: -- they think we should pass this.  It‘s good for—it‘s good for Russia.  It‘s good for—I mean, it‘s good for Russian-American relations.  It‘s good for strengthening the moderates in Russia, instead of strengthening the hard-liners like Putin.  And it‘s good for our relations with Israel because it will help us deal with the nuclear threat in Iran.  I mean, this is a winner all the way around, except McConnell and Kyl—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God!

BROWN: -- don‘t want Barack Obama to have a win.  It‘s as simple as that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  So Kyl—so bottom line, Kyl is his Charlie McCarthy. 

He‘s speaking for him, for Mitch McConnell.

BROWN:  Your words, but close enough.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN:  Sounds good.

MATTHEWS:  It‘s an old reference.  Anyway, thank you very much—

BROWN:  Thanks, Chris.  Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS: -- Senator Sherrod Brown.  Merry Christmas to you.

BROWN:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: The empire strikes back.  Our own boy, Joe Scarborough, has come out saying the empress has no clothes, the first Republican to say publicly what a lot of people say in the Green Room when you bump into them—Stop Sarah Palin, she‘s not presidential material.  Can the establishment, being spoken for here by our own Joe Scarborough, stop the star‘s—the biggest star of the Republican Party so far?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wow, a great moment on the Senate floor today.  John McCain reached across the aisle to pay tribute to Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat, who went down to defeat this year.  McCain and Feingold worked together most notably on the campaign finance reform law that bears their names, and the Arizona Republican said the Senate will be a lesser place when Feingold leaves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  I will miss him here every day.  And I will try harder to become half the public servant that he is because his friendship is an honor, and honors come with responsibilities.  God bless him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, a bit of the world‘s greatest deliberative body there on the Senate floor today.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Is it time for the Republican Party to take on Sarah Palin?  Joe Scarborough wrote today in “The Politico” that it‘s high time.  And he writes, quote, “It‘s time for the GOP to man up.”

Well, Pat Buchanan‘s an MSNBC political analyst and David Corn‘s a Washington bureau chief—the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and writes for Politicsdaily.com.

I see Pat.  He‘s already got his wizened eyes ready—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: -- to defend the womanhood and greatness of Sarah Palin.  Go ahead, Pat.  Take on Joe Scarborough, your morning mate.  What right has he to say the empress has no clothes, you ask.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  He‘s got every right.  He‘s a columnist and a commentator.  He‘s got a voice.  He believes deeply Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president.  There are others that agree with him.  I think Peggy Noonan‘s been very critical.  I think Mona Charen, other columnists have.

But my view is basically this.  I think she has certainly earned a right, if she wishes to compete in the Republican primaries, to have that competition and to try and prove she‘s fully qualified to be president.  She‘s got enormous assets, a tremendous following, political instincts.  Her last two statements on the WikiLeaks thing and on the Fed have been right on the money, which suggests she‘s staffing up.  I think we give her a chance to prove herself.  And for heaven‘s sakes, I think we don‘t want another Goldwater-Rockefeller battle where we tear the party apart before we get to the convention.

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  I think that‘d be wonderful if the party tears itself apart.

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe she has the right—I want to ask Pat—hold on just for a second.  I want to get the answer from the Republican, or erstwhile Republican here.  Do you believe, with your hand on a Bible, that she has the right stuff to be president of the United States, commander-in-chief and all that goes with it?  Do you, Pat Buchanan—are you willing to say now she has the right stuff?  Those are my words.  I‘m asking you if you accept them.  The right stuff (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN:  She‘s got a lot of the right stuff, a lot of it, a lot of it.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Now, wait a minute—

CORN:  He‘s hedging!  You‘re hedging, Pat!

BUCHANAN:  No, let me say I think she‘s got the instincts, the courage, the charisma, the following.  Has she proven yet she‘s got the depth on the issues and the ability to handle issues abroad and at home, especially abroad?  She has not demonstrated that yet, but I do believe she should have a chance to do so if she wishes to run for president.

CORN:  She had a chance to demonstrate it when she was—

MATTHEWS:  Well, the trouble with that argument—go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Chris, she had a chance to demonstrate this when she was governor of Alaska, and she couldn‘t take the heat.  She couldn‘t make it through a full term there.  Now she wants to pretend she‘s presidential timbre?

Well, I know why some people are following her, but that‘s why a lot of people in the Republican Party say, listen, this would be a big mistake if we went down this path.

The problems that the Republicans have is that they really have nobody to say no to her at this point who has any clout, any influence, any power that could block her. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Explain why.

CORN:  Well, why?  Well, who?  Karl Rove and Barbara Bush?  These are mosquitoes that she can just swat away. 

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  If she runs, she will have to be defeated by other Republican candidates, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  And I‘ll tell you what.  They‘re not going to take her on now, because there‘s a chance she may not run.  And if she doesn‘t run, they want her support. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CORN:  Right.  So, they‘re going to come out strong.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me ask you, Pat.  You have just—

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  Pat—I just want to give Pat one more bite at the apple here. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  When I asked you if she had the right stuff to be president, you said not all of it.  You just put her in a league with about 329 million Americans who you‘re not sure have the right stuff to be president. 

BUCHANAN:  Right.  No, no.

Let me tell you this.  Do I think Pawlenty has the right stuff to be president?  I‘m not sure.  Do I think Mike Pence has it?  I‘m not sure.  I think they have to prove that, Chris, in the primaries.

MATTHEWS:  Who has it?

BUCHANAN:  Nixon—well, when Nixon ran, you know what he told me?  He said, Pat, they think I‘m qualified to be president.  Everybody thinks I‘m a loser and they don‘t want me.  I‘m going to have to prove I‘m not a loser by running in every single primary. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  And he did it. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  But, Pat, no one thought Nixon was unqualified.  They might have thought he was a psychopath, but they didn‘t think he was unqualified.  He had been vice president. 

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  He had been a senator.  He had been a member of the House.

(CROSSTALK)          

CORN:  This is much different than Sarah Palin and writing a book about how she feels.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Chris, “Mother Jones” is frightened to death of Sarah Palin.  I can see it right here. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at Joe—Joe Scarborough asked my favorite question to John Shadegg, the congressman, today, put him on the spot for a number of minutes this morning with one question.  It‘s the question I have asked.  Is she qualified to be president?

Republicans don‘t like this question, not elected ones.  Here‘s the condensed version of this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC:  Do you think that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president of the United States? 

REP. JOHN SHADEGG ®, ARIZONA:  Well, you tell me who came out and trashed QE2?

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think—do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president of the United States? 

SHADEGG:  Joe, I think that‘s a decision for the American people. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG:  Let‘s talk—let‘s get serious.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president of the United States? 

SHADEGG:  Do you want to ask me if I believe all the other candidates are qualified?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I‘m just asking you one question, John.  I‘m just asking you one question.  I want an answer. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG:  Are they at the White House going to discuss Iran today and what‘s going on with the leaked documents? 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG:  Come on, Joe. 

Do I think Sarah Palin is qualified? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

SHADEGG:  I think the American people and the Republican Party will make that decision, as the process requires. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  God.  You know, Pat, this reminds me of the good old days of, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  This is the question that a lot of people don‘t like to ask. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, here‘s the question.  I guess the argument—go ahead.

I want to get the argument that I think Joe Scarborough, our colleague, has made here, which is this going to take a lot of time dealing with Sarah Palin, and it‘s not going to end up with her nomination.  It‘s going to distort the process, putting all the focus on her.  People will be nice to her.  Some will treat her like a pinata at some point.  I expect Newt Gingrich will take some shots at her at some point. 

But in the end, it won‘t really have anything to do with picking a president.  Don‘t you need to—since you would think you face—and everybody does, I think fairly—a very close election in 2012 -- don‘t you want to get to the business of picking the nominee from day one with the first debate, rather than having, who is so exciting in terms of politics, distracting? 

Your thoughts, Pat.     

BUCHANAN:  No, no, I don‘t—hey, Chris, look, If Republicans are going to win, it‘s got to be a coalition of moderate Republicans, Republican establishment conservatives, and the Tea Party types. 

Now, Sarah Palin brings cards to that table.  You don‘t want to give any of it up.  We don‘t want to make the same mistake we made in 1964, when we tore ourselves apart before we got to San Francisco.  So, I think let the woman run—if she wants to run, let he run and make her case.  And if she wins that nomination, she can only win it by beating these folks and beating another finalist in the debates and everything else.  That‘s how Obama did it.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  That‘s the problem that the Republicans face.  If they are nice to her and they let her compete, the way that Pat suggests, there‘s a chance she might get the nomination.

And, right now, the polls and I think people in the Republican Party, in the leadership, you know, realize that she will have the least likely chance of any of the major Republican candidates at this point in time. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Now, so, the problem is, do you—can you stop Republican voters from going over that cliff?  The answer might be, you can‘t. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, well, let me—look, look, she may—look, right now, the national voters, all the country at large says, by and large, they think she would be the weakest of the major candidates. 

That may prove true, but do not attack, in my judgment, and try to destroy a candidate who will be an enormous asset to you in November if she loses.  And if she wins, for heaven‘s sakes, she‘s only going to win because—if she wins, because she‘s beaten people like Romney, who have been out there, maybe Huckabee, who has been out there.  If she does that, the party wants her. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Well, I think the thing that Pat is right about—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Pat, Pat—I need to go to Pat on this.  Pat is right about a lot of things.  David, just hold for a second. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Pat, you say you‘re not sure she has the right stuff to be president.  Name the Cabinet post that you‘re sure she‘s capable of right now, a member of the United States Cabinet.  Which one do you know for sure that she‘s capable of filling, any Cabinet post.  Name it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Vice president of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  She could do that job? 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  There‘s nothing to do except wait to become president.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  She had it.  She had it.  And then you—the only concerns that people have is, as a student, does she have the knowledge on the issues and things like that?

As the vice president, I‘m not sure Spiro Agnew, whom I supported, did he have all the knowledge -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You made a mistake here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If she is qualified to be V.P., she‘s—she must be qualified to be president if she‘s qualified to be vice president, Pat.  You know the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what John McCain thought.  That‘s what the Republican Convention thought. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  Well, John McCain was wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We are going to come back to this.  We‘re coming back.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think Sarah Palin‘s with us, no matter what Joe Scarborough says. 

Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, my friend, as—David Corn.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  She‘s good for business. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re both my friends.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back with the “Sideshow.” 

You bet your bottom dollar. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First, Christine O‘Donnell stirs the pot.  I guess she‘s back to her old tricks.  Reminds of that Sinatra song.  It‘s witchcraft, but it‘s strictly taboo.  This morning, she went back to her satanic craft on ABC. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC)

CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, FORMER DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  I hope she runs for president.  The reason why I—

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC ANCHOR:  Hillary Clinton for president?

O‘DONNELL:  I sure do.  I would love to see her take out Obama in the primary.

You know, I would even be tempted to change my registration, so that I can vote for her in the Democratic primary.  

(LAUGHTER)

O‘DONNELL:  I love everybody in the Republican side who‘s even considering throwing their hat in the ring, so I would be happy with any candidate who gets the Republican nomination.  So, that‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You‘re going to vote for Hillary Clinton? 

O‘DONNELL:  I didn‘t say—

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  I said I would consider—

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Is that because you think she‘s easier to beat?

O‘DONNELL:  No.  It‘s because, right now, I think anybody is better than Obama. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is that about?  O‘Donnell also boosted Hillary‘s handling of the WikiLeaks scandal.  I think she may be the only one in the country twisted enough to see people in the State Department looking especially good in this thing. 

Finally, if you‘re a world leader, size matters.  President Bush on his book tour yesterday told the crowd a fun anecdote about Russian Premier and noted tough guy Vladimir Putin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I introduced Vladimir to Barney.  I don‘t know if you remember Barney.  Barney‘s a little Scottish terrier, like an awesome little guy. 

And he kind of dissed him.  He kind of—like, oh, man.  And I—

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH:  At least I thought he did.  And I kind of—I didn‘t let him know it kind of hurt my feelings, because I‘m crazy about Barney.

Anyway, about a year later, Putin says, would you like to meet my dog?  And out bounds this huge hound named Koni.  And he looks at me and he says, “Bigger, faster and stronger than Barney.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s another piece to that story, though.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH:  Yes.  Then I—so I share the story with Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada.  And he says, “At least he only showed you his dog.”

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is he so self-satisfied about?  Anyway, Bush doing the blue material. 

Up next: the latest nuggets from those WikiLeaks.  Plus, what the government is going to do or trying to do to go after the group‘s founder to punish this guy. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRISH REGAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello, everyone.  I‘m Trish Regan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks losing steam after a brief little bounce this afternoon.  The

Dow Jones industrial average sliding four sliding 46 points, the S&P down -

S&P 500 losing seven there, and Nasdaq down 27 points. 

Stocks struggled pretty much all day.  You have all those worries right now about the Eurozone debt levels and Korea tensions that kept any gains we saw in check.  That late-day bounce, it came after Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to work together on a tax cut compromise.

But, overall, we‘re looking at the worst November in two years, the market‘s worst monthly performance since August.  Big banks are lower after the founder of WikiLeaks said his next release will reveal unethical behavior at a major U.S. bank.  Google skidding 4.5 percent after announcing plans to buy online discounter Groupon for $5 billion to $6 billion. 

And Barnes & Noble plunging nearly 6 percent on shrinking store sales, declining margins, and a weak outlook. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide. 

I‘m Trish Regan—now back to Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Justice Department is investigating whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broke the law when he published thousands of State Department cables that exposed confidential discussions among diplomats.

But the possibility of legal action does not seem to be deterring Assange.  He says he has documents that could take down a big American bank and will release them early next year. 

For more on the revelations from these State Department cables and what it means for our foreign policy interests, let‘s turn to former State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin, and also to “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. 

Jamie, thanks for joining us. 

And thank you for joining us, Gene.

This big question here, can we stop this kind of behavior, this leaking and publicizing over the Internet of very sensitive material that embarrasses us, with the law?  Is the law any help here, Jamie? 

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE:  Probably not. 

I think someone like Mr. Assange is not going to be deterred by legal action.  Look, the law was a—the private in the military who—was aware of the law when he stole this information and passed it on to what is essentially a fence operation of Mr. Assange.  And I doubt they‘re going to be deterred by this.

The damage, ironically, that‘s been done here is to the very way of doing business that those on the hard left would prefer, diplomacy.  Rather than the military operations of the Pentagon or the sanctions of the Treasury Department, diplomats are in the business of trying to resolve disputes peacefully.  And they‘re the ones who have been cut off at the knees by this.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Jamie, what is the hard left here all about?  I‘m fairly familiar with politics, but I don‘t get the angle here.  What does this guy Assange out of Australia seek to do, besides create chaos in the West?  What‘s his angle?  What‘s his enemy? 

RUBIN:  Well, I‘m not entirely sure, but I can suspect that he started off in the anti-war mode, trying to prove, through Afghanistan cables and Iraq cables, that these wars were a mistake and needed to be understood better by the American public, and then they would drop their support for them.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUBIN:  But from transferring that issue to broad American foreign policy to the U.S. government‘s daily operations, he‘s become an anti-American anarchist of some kind. 

MATTHEWS:  I want to ask Gene the same question. 

Ideologically—we love that on this show, finding out where people are coming from.  Where is this guy coming from?  And are there—going to more of it?  It sounds like this is the beginning of something, not the end of it. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it does sound like the beginning, Chris. 

And I don‘t know where to put him on a kind of left-to-right continuum.  I‘m not sure he fits into that traditional spectrum.  I think Jamie is right.  Put him off to the side or on a third axis maybe, as, essentially, an anarchist or somebody who—I don‘t—he doesn‘t fit a traditional left profile, in my view. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is going after the secretary of state. 

He told “TIME” that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—quote—

“should resign, if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the U.N., in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up.”

Jamie, you worked at the State Department.  You made your name there so well.  It sounds like he‘s got a bee in his bonnet, a target of Hillary Clinton, who, to me, is somewhere center-left, hardly an ideological figure.  

What is he after here? 

RUBIN:  Well, I say left earlier because I think that the supporters of Mr. Assange, certainly “Rolling Stone” journalist Michael Hastings and Daniel Ellsberg, who have been supporting what he is doing, come from the, you know, far left—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

RUBIN:  -- to opposing U.S. foreign policy across the board.

You know, diplomats and spying have been an issue that‘s gone back to the Middle Ages and the early American Revolution, you know, they were all trying to read each other‘s cables and treaties.  The irony here is that as a result of openness over the last hundreds of years, there are no great revelations.  After Watergate, after Vietnam and Pentagon papers, learned that the private American policy is much like the public American policy.  Not perhaps for the leaders in the Arab world where their democratic values are a little weaker.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I love it.  Gene Robinson, you and I think a lot alike and I think I can say that with some assurance.  And I was impressed that John Pindorice (ph), he‘s sort of a mild neoconservative, was praising the information.  He‘s saying that this shows the United States is basically, honest, candid, serious, and sort of the good guy in the world, where the rest of the world is just playing games in terms of what they‘re up to.

ROBINSON:  You know, it does.  I mean, what‘s striking to me about what‘s come out so far, the cables that have come out so far, is that they are entirely consistent with what we understood U.S. policy to be and there has been nothing, you know, really even duplicitous and duplicity frankly is part of diplomacy.

You know, my colleague Anne Applebaum had a fascinating column this morning in which she was kind of trying to figure out where Assange is coming from, and saying, you know, there are places where they are real secrets to be uncovered, regimes that don‘t have sunshine laws like the regime in China for example, and ask, will he go as aggressively after those kinds of documents?

MATTHEWS:  How do I know he won‘t?

Thank you, Jamie Rubin.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Thank you, Eugene Robinson, for joining us.

Up next: the Pentagon reports that allowing gays to serve openly in the military wouldn‘t cause any long-term problems.  What a report.  So, if the Pentagon has no objection to ditching “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” why do people like John McCain and others in Republican Party oppose any change in the law?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  That doomsday scenario for Democrats at least in which New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg runs for president as an independent may not be as bad as some of the left fear.  In a three-way race between Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Bloomberg, a new PPP poll shows Obama winning with 44 percent, with Romney 30 and Bloomberg way down at 11. 

The poll also finds that voters don‘t really like Bloomberg.  Only 19 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him, but he has enough money to change how he‘s perceived.  At least that‘s what some people think.  I like the guy.

HARDBALL will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.  Today, the Pentagon released its long awaited report on the effects of repealing the military‘s ban on open service by gays and lesbians.

Here are some of the results from their survey of active duty military reservists and spouses.  Sixty-nine percent said they have worked with a service member whom they believe to be gay.  Ninety-two percent said they had either good or neutral feelings about co-workers they have served with whom they believe to be gay.  That‘s a big number.  And 70 percent said a repeal would have either a positive, mixed, or no effect on their ability to work together and get the job done.

Hear Defense Secretary Robert Gates and joint chairman—chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, today.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  The findings suggest that for large segments of the military, repeal of “don‘t ask don‘t tell,” though potentially disruptive in the short-term, would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.  I strongly urge the Senate to pass this legislation and send it to the president for signature before the end of this year.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  I fully endorse their report, its findings and the implementation plan recommended by the working group.  The working group has given a tall order, indeed, nothing less than producing the first truly comprehensive assessment of not only the impact of repeal of the law governing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” but also about how best to implement a new policy across the joint force.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and the report‘s authors head to the Senate Thursday and Friday to testify to the armed services committee about their findings.  The top Republican on that committee is Senator John McCain, the most vocal critic, I must say, of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

We have joining us right now: R. Clarke Cooper is the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans.  And Aubrey Sarvis is executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Aubrey, you first.  Congratulations.  I know this has been a cause of you—cause for you as all those years of your service justifies.  What did you find in the report that was good news?  What disturbed you, if anything?

AUBREY SARVIS, SERVICEMEMBERS LEGAL DEFENSE NETWORK:  This was a remarkable day, Chris.  Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen both called for repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and this report.  Not only did they recommend that the Senate act in the lame duck session, they also said the Pentagon was ready to get on with the job.  So, I think it‘s remarkable.

It‘s also ironic that 17 years ago, President Clinton signed into law “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” and today, we heard from the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs urging the Senate to act in the next few weeks to repeal this law.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re a representative democracy, Clarke, and the question is: are we going to begin to see representation of our democracy?  We‘ve got some Republican senators up on the Hill, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  Are those people going to join and represent the public opinion on this and the opinion as voiced today by that report from the military itself?

R. CLARKE COOPER, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS:  Chris, I‘m not going to speak on behalf of any of those senators, but I will say that this report does give air—gives lift to Republican senators who had called for this study and who are deliberative in the process.  And there are a number of senators out there on the Republican side of the aisle who are going to be happy to have this report in their hands, having the necessary oversight hearings at the Senate Armed Services Committee will engender them or enable them to be able to vote for repeal in this Congress and on the defense bill this year.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your party.  I don‘t think your orientation was a choice but your choice of political party is real.  You are a Republican, right, Clarke?

COOPER:  That‘s correct.

MATTHEWS:  When you go to the Republican convention and they put together one of these platforms again, against—whatever their latest anti-gay move is, what do you feel about that?

And what do you feel about the fact that the entire Republican Party right now is recalcitrant—they‘re not willing to represent public opinion or military opinion on this matter?  They‘re not willing to do what the public wants them to do.  What‘s your feeling about that?

COOPER:  Well, for starters, Chris, that‘s a broad brush about the entire party.  And but I‘ll go back to your question about—

MATTHEWS:  Well, the platform.  No, no, it‘s not a broad brush, it is what the party speaks.

COOPER:  Let‘s talk about the platform or the manifesto or whatever it‘s called, each party has one of those, in our country and other countries as well.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COOPER:  That is something that‘s to be addressed.  And, obviously, one of our jobs within Log Cabin Republicans, as an auxiliary of the party, is to be that reminder that we are a party for everyone.  We are a party of inclusion and that inclusion wins.  And to focus on individual liberty, individual responsibility—those conservative pillars, those conservative bookends.

And so, yes, we‘ve got a huge mantle on our how shoulders and a lot of work within the party.  But I will say this—let‘s look at this election cycle in 2010 and we‘re reminding our fellow Republicans a reason, the big reason why a number of Republicans won either as challengers or came back and return on Congress is because they ran on the economy.  They ran on jobs.  They did not run on social issues.  Running on social issues is a losing proposition.

SARVIS:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s take a look at John McCain.  I want Aubrey to respond to John McCain, because he‘s hot—I want you to talk about this magnate (ph) here.  Here‘s John McCain back in October 2006 on the HARDBALL college tour in Iowa.  And here‘s when I begin to suspect about the Republicans.

Let‘s listen to John McCain back then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  And I understand the opposition to it and I‘ve had these debates and discussions, but the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, “Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there he is saying it, Aubrey, that he is for changing it, if the military wants it changed.  Certainly, that‘s—what‘s he up to now?

SARVIS:  Well, he did say that.  But, unfortunately, he has changed his mind yet again.  In fact, the secretary of defense, the commander in chief, the chairman of joint chiefs, have recommended repeal to Senator McCain and he keeps moving the goalpost.

           

The reality is: he did not like today.  This was a bad day for Senator McCain.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

SARVIS:  This report called for repeal.  Senator McCain‘s response is to ask for another report, a different report.  He‘s told them to go back to the drawing boards and come up with the answer I want.  And I don‘t believe they are going to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Clarke, I want to ask you as a Republican, has John McCain, Republican, lost touch with his own military ranks?  He served with great distinction.  He suffered for our country as a POW, but does he know the military today?

COOPER:  I have actually traveled with Senator McCain in several capacities during the Bush administration.  So, I have to give him credit for being very deliberate and very convictive about reaching out to service members.  So, I‘m not going to question that.

I will call upon Senator McCain, as a fellow combat veteran, as a fellow Republican, to change his mind again, to actually read the study and not predetermine.  I mean, he, himself, said let‘s not predetermine, let‘s not circumvent the Department of Defense study process.  Let General Carter Hamm and Mr. Johnson do their job.

Well, they have done their job.  The seal on the Department of Defense is on this report.  It‘s ready for review.  It‘s ready for consumption.

And I would call upon Senator McCain, as well as other Republicans, to support the study as—and also vote for the amendment in the defense bill.

SARVIS:  Chris, the reality is—

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wish you both well and congrats—I have to go now.  Go ahead, Aubrey, we have to go right now.  Thank you so much, Aubrey, congratulations.  I know this has been a passion of yours as service guy and former officer.  I‘m with you on this.  I‘m so glad you had a good day.  And I guess I‘m glad that John McCain had a bad day on this one anyway.

SARVIS:  Well, thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, thank you, Clarke Cooper, as always with the—I like the Log Cabin guys.  I love speaking to you guys over the years.

When we return: let me finish with a couple of truths that people dare not speak.  Not everybody tells the truth in politics.  These are about illegal immigration and the national debt.

You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me finish tonight with two truths that dare not be spoken in this country.  They are true, all right—they simply dare not be confessed.

One, we are never going to send all those illegal immigrants home.  “Send them home” is a great applause line on the right.  It‘s a dynamite, though somewhat creepy 30-second TV ad.  But it‘s got nothing do to do with the reality.  The American people will simply not stand for the government going around and looking for people, some here for decades and throw them out of the country.

Two, the debt problem in this country is severe, monstrous and it‘s not going away.  We can get rid of all the earmarks, all the waste, fraud and abuse, and we should.  We can, quote, “trim the fat” and dump a bunch of unnecessary agencies and functions of government.  But none of this, not all of this will solve the problem.

The problem—and it could endanger this country the way debt has up ended Greece and Ireland and could have been Portugal and Italy—is that we have made commitments that the taxpayer will not meet.  Nobody I know will support a third of the economy going to the federal government.  The only way to deal with the debt is to deal with the obligations that have been made and down the road cannot be met.

So, let‘s get serious about illegal immigration, about the debt. 

Let‘s stop saying what isn‘t going to happen and focus on what needs to.  We deserved a fair, workable immigration policy and we need to get this debt under control before we join the countries who can‘t.

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

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

           

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