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updated 4/11/2011 5:31:10 PM ET 2011-04-11T21:31:10

Guests: Simon Hobbs, Mark Halperin, Eugene Robinson, Barbara Boxer, Chris Coons, Cecile Richards, John Heilemann, Matt Kibbe, David Corn

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Will the last person leaving Washington please turn out the lights?

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight, of course: “Going to wait till the midnight hour”

those words by the great Wilson Pickett say it best.  The deadline for a government shutdown is midnight tonight.  As of now, not only is there no agreement, the two sides can‘t even agree on what there‘s no agreement on.  John Boehner says there‘s no agreement yet on spending and that‘s the sticking point.  Democrats just don‘t want to cut enough, he says.  Wrong, says Harry Reid, there is an agreement on spending.  This is all about a conservative Republican social agenda aimed at crippling Planned Parenthood and the health services it provides to women.

So who‘s right and who‘s spinning?  What‘s really at issue with Planned Parenthood here?  And how does President Obama come out at the end of all this?  And who will get the blame if the government shuts down at midnight?  We‘ve got all the bases covered tonight as we count down to that midnight hour.

Let‘s begin where the looming shutdown deadline itself.  Senator Barbara Boxer is a Democrat from California and Senator Chris Coons is a brand-new Democrat from Delaware.  He sits on the budget committee.

Senator Boxer, this is a strange one.  Politics is about arguing.  It‘s about compromise.  It‘s about numbers.  But is this fight tonight about numbers?  You say three, I say five, OK, four.  What‘s it about?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Chris, I‘ll tell you what it‘s about.  Last night, there was a meeting at the White House until the wee hours of the morning.  There was an agreement on the numbers.  I‘ll be specific.  We Democrats understanding you to cut, you got to cut even if it hurts some of our beloved programs that we think help people.  We agreed to go 78 percent in the direction of the Republicans.

Now, mind you, they control one third of the government that‘s dealing with this.  In other words, they got the House, but Democrats have the Senate and the White House.  We didn‘t say, OK, you‘re one third of the powers that be, we‘ll go to you one third.  We went to them 78 percent.

They had a deal last night, and there was one outstanding issue which Boehner said he couldn‘t absolutely move his people on, and that was family planning and women‘s health, Title X.  It is not all about Planned Parenthood.

I have to say this to you because Planned Parenthood does get 25 percent of Title X funding.  But in my state, we have clinics called names like St. John‘s clinic and we have the clinics that are run by hospitals and cities and all the rest.

So this is the fact.  There was an agreement.  Harry Reid is a man of his word.  We know, we have the facts to back it up, the deal was cut.  And can you imagine, if you and I argue—and we‘ve done that in the past—

MATTHEWS:  I know.

BOXER:  -- if one of us comes 78 percent to the other, I mean, that is really remarkable.  We‘ve solved the numbers problem.  They are stuck on women‘s health.  And I got to tell you, I‘m going to tell my people the truth.  If this government shuts down, it‘s because they want to stop breast screening for women, they want to stop cervical cancer screening for women, they want to stop blood pressure checks and diabetes help for our families.  Five million families count on these clinics.  This is really insane, as far as I‘m concerned.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe it is.  Let‘s take a look at what Speaker Boehner said today about what‘s holding up the deal.  Let‘s listen to the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  All I can tell you is, is that almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with, and there is no agreement on the spending level.  And we‘re working to try to get there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, majority leader Harry Reid said the only obstacle, as Senator Boxer just said, is the Republicans wanting to defund women‘s health services from Planned Parenthood.  Let‘s listen to Senator Reid, the leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  It will be crystal clear to the American people that Democrats were reasonable and Republicans are responsible for shutting down the government.  The fact that Republicans have made this about women‘s health and not about money or anything controversial is really a sham.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me get back to this, Senator Boxer—well, let me go to Senator Coons, if you don‘t mind, bring him in here, a new guy on the block.  Senator Coons, this is unusual because we‘ve had budget fights as long as I can remember, certainly as long as Barbara Boxer has been in the United States Congress.  This is what you do, you argue over numbers and you reach an agreement.

Out of nowhere comes this rider, so-called, this added cultural question, not necessarily—it could be, I guess, applied to abortion, but it‘s really about birth control, and as the senator said, about women‘s preventative health situation—where you want to prevent health problems, and of course, if you want to prevent a pregnancy.

Why do you think the Republicans are fighting to the last person on this fight?  What‘s this about?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE:  Well, Chris, it doesn‘t make any sense to me.  I mean, this is no way to run a government.  It‘s no way to run a business.  We‘re more than halfway through the current federal fiscal year, and every federal agency from the Small Business Administration to the FBI doesn‘t yet know how much they‘ve got to spend for the current fiscal year.

We should be talking about our economy‘s health, not fighting an ideological war over women‘s health.  This ought to be a clean spending bill, one that allows us to come to agreement, as I believe we have, on how much to cut out of this year‘s budget, pass it, and move on to dealing with the big issue, the trillion-dollar issue, which is our long-term debt and deficit and making progress in passing an FY 12 budget.

Instead, for two months now, we seem to have been stuck as the folks on the other side and in the other chamber have moved the goalposts several times.  I think they need to learn how to hear yes.  Democrats, folks in our caucus in the Senate, have agreed to significant cuts—

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

COONS:  -- and significant concessions this year.  I think we need to reach agreement and move on.

MATTHEWS:  You ran against a very charming full-mooner in the last election, someone who was way out there politically.  I‘m beginning to think that the full-mooners have taken over the Republican caucus.  This is the kind of thing that Christine O‘Donnell would be doing, finding something in Planned Parenthood.

Senator boxer, this seems like the Republican Party is not the party of Tom Keekal (ph) or of anybody you can recognize in the Republican Party from California over the years.  It‘s a party that‘s sort of—almost like the Birch Society that‘s taken over the party.

BOXER:  Well, let me give you a better one than that.  Do you know, Chris, who signed the Title X program into law?

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t know.

BOXER:  OK.  Richard Nixon, Chris, in 1970.  And do you know one of the co-sponsors of the legislation that set up the Title X women‘s health program?  George Herbert Walker Bush.

So this crowd over here has left the Republican Party behind.  And all I‘m saying is, I am appealing to mainstream America, regardless of party, weigh in here.  And I would say quite simply, if you ran one third of the government, all right, and the other two thirds decide to come over to you 78 percent of the way on cuts, you should say, as Chris Coons said, Thank you very much.  We did it.  And let‘s get on with it.

They can‘t do it because they have become this extreme faction in America, and it is stunning to me.  And I have to say to every one of my Senate colleagues and House colleagues, call up one of the 4,500 clinics in America that get this funding.  Only a quarter of the money goes to Planned Parenthood, so we know Planned Parenthood—and by the way, not a penny can be used for abortion.  You know that.  That‘s been the law forever.

MATTHEWS:  I know the law.  The Hyde amendment.

BOXER:  Yes.  But call the others that get this money, and they will tell you they save lives every day by doing these important HIV/AIDS testing and blood pressure and diabetes testing.  And 50 percent of the people of the five million Americans that use these clinics, that‘s their only health care.  And These boys want to shut them down along with the federal government.

And I will tell you, Chris, I‘ve been around here a while.  You know that.  I have never seen anything like this in my life.  And it reminds me a little bit about Wisconsin.  Remember, in Wisconsin, they said, Oh, all this battle is about numbers, and then the unions came in and said, We‘ll give you the numbers.  What it really was about was taking away their rights.  What this is about is taking away women‘s health.  That‘s what it‘s about.  It‘s not about the numbers.

MATTHEWS:  You know, Congressman (SIC) Coons, I don‘t know how—I guess you‘re sort of a regular Democrat, not a really extreme Democrat, based upon your state.  I guess that‘s where you are, Senator Coons.  On the issue of abortion rights, I think most people would like to see less abortions, although they believe in the right to—a woman to choose, of course, but they believe fewer would be better, probably, for a lot of reasons.  And birth control is one way to do that.  In fact—

BOXER:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  -- it may be the profound fact here, that the Republicans are holding up what is really a federal program to encourage women to plan children, to have them responsibly and make responsible decisions, including the use of birth control, and making that available to poor women by the millions.  Why would somebody who‘s anti-choice, or pro-life, if you will, be against birth control?  It doesn‘t make any logical sense.

COONS:  That‘s a great question, Chris.  What you‘re saying there just happens to reinforce strongly how irresponsible this is.  The $300 million spent every year on Title X women‘s health services, as Senator Boxer said, a program that goes back to 1970, was launched with strong Republican support, as you‘re saying, is something that gives access to health screenings, cancer screenings and to contraception and to contraceptive counseling for low-income women all over this country.

There‘s 26 health clinics in the state of Delaware that receive Title X funding, five of them Planned Parenthood-affiliated, the rest not.  And they provide critical services that help make sure that the children who are born in Delaware are wanted children, are healthy children, and more than anything, to make sure that women in Delaware have access to health.

I can‘t believe at this point in our economy, we‘re fighting over this narrow ideological issue.  It‘s turned into a fight over trying to shut down Title X.  There were 60 riders on this bill when the continuing resolution came over from the House.  And what the folks in our leadership have been negotiating vigorously with Speaker Boehner about over the last couple days is steadily knocking them down one by one, things that would have defunded the EPA‘s enforcement authority, would have shut down public broadcasting.  Now we‘re down to one last issue.

The Democrats in the Senate have made significant reductions in spending.  We‘ve committed to joining in making significant cuts in federal spending.  The only thing that‘s left here is about ideology.  And as you point out, even for those who might be very concerned about making this their number one issue, cutting Title X doesn‘t make sense.

So if we have to have a fight about abortion rights, about life versus choice, let‘s have that fight.  But a spending bill is not the place to have it.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

COONS:  All of us agree we ought to get back to focusing on jobs.  Chris, if I could give one last example?  This Monday morning, next week Monday—my Senate office in Delaware has been working very hard to pull together a great job fair.  We expect a thousand unemployed Delawarians to come to an all-day job fair.  We‘ve got 50 companies lined up to come and help people interview for jobs.

If the federal government shuts down, my Senate employees can‘t pull off that job fair.  I‘ve reached out and gotten volunteers and cooperation from our wonderful governor, Jack Markel (ph), and our state government, so we‘ll still be able to pull it off.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

COONS:  But if you think about how many other things won‘t get done Monday to help Americans get back to work if we actually shut down, I think it‘s outrageous.

MATTHEWS:  OK, great.  I hear you.  Senator Barbara Boxer, as always, my friend, thank you so much for coming on HARDBALL tonight, on this strange night.  And I don‘t think it‘s about abortion, I think it‘s about birth control, which is one of the strangest things we‘ve debated in a long time.

Coming up: Are Republicans really threatening to shut down the government over this stuff, over funding, basically, for birth control and women‘s preventative health issues and screenings for cervical cancer and things like that?  They really want to shut off the money?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, catch this.  Karl Rove is warning Republicans that a government shutdown tonight could give President Obama the opportunity to appear to be a strong leader.  Rove points out that Bill Clinton‘s “strong leader” ratings—I guess the ratings for that jumped high by double digits back during the shutdown in 1995, helping him to position himself for a strong reelection the following year.  Well, Karl Rove is advising Republicans to cool it.  President Obama‘s numbers as a strong leader have slipped in Gallup polling recently, and Rove warns Republicans should be careful not to let them recover.

We‘ll be right back.  That‘s an interesting bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you willing to hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood?

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Well, of course I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that great?  There‘s a guy—you may disagree with him, but Pence is laying it on the line—Of course I would.  Politicians don‘t usually talk like that.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence earlier this week.  It was Pence himself who offered the original amendment back in February to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding.  But it‘s not the hot button of abortion that‘s really being fought over here.  No federal money does go to abortion.  It‘s the preventive care to those three million patients that they receive from an organization like that every year.

And more on the politics of the fight, I‘m joined by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, and John Heilemann, who covers politics.  So let‘s look at the substance (INAUDIBLE) Cecile, it‘s always great to have you on, although it always seems to be hot when you come on here like this.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And here we are.  We have a Hyde amendment, and the Hyde amendment, as you know from your work on abortion issues and abortion rights and the whole question of choice, band under the law—and it‘s been this case for 20-some years—you can‘t spend federal money on abortions.

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  But you can spend federal money on birth control.  You certainly can spend it on women‘s health, preventative health, checkings, screenings, mammograms, whatever.  OK, tell me what this fight‘s about, as you see it?

RICHARDS:  Well, what it is about now, it‘s incredible that we‘re sitting here and the federal budget is being held up over the issue of whether women are going to be about to get family planning, Pap smears and breast exams.  That‘s absolutely the issue.  And it‘s unthinkable to me they would be going after these services.  Planned Parenthood sees three million patients a year.  Ninety-seven percent of our services are preventive care.  And that‘s really what‘s at stake.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s also—you know, we can argue about abortion forever.  It‘s a great issue to argue about.  But this is not really about that.

RICHARDS:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  According to the numbers I‘ve looked at today, social services that are funded by the federal government today basically prevent about two million unwanted pregnancies, which translates, according to the pattern of human behavior under free choice in our country, where it is a choice, about 800,000 abortions avoided.

RICHARDS:  That‘s right.

MATTHEWS:  Now, if you‘re pro-life, it seems to me you would be for something that would radically reduce the number of abortions that are chose by women under the law.  Why aren‘t they for it?

RICHARDS:  Well, that‘s what‘s incredible—

MATTHEWS:  Why aren‘t the pro-lifers supporting this?

RICHARDS:  It makes no sense.  You‘re exactly right.  And in fact, Planned Parenthood, because we‘re the largest family planning provider in the country and we provide—we provide birth control to 2.5 million people every single year.  We prevent more unintended pregnancies than any other organization in America.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  Are the strict conservative now still against birth control?  Maybe I missed a step here.

RICHARDS:  Well, that‘s one of the—

MATTHEWS:  Am I ahead of the times?

RICHARDS:  That‘s what it seems to me.  This is actually a war on women‘s health writ large, against family planning, against cancer screenings.  And you know, Congressman Steve Lynch made this point very eloquently on—

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s a pro-lifer.

RICHARDS:  Yes.  And he said, you know, Look, we should be spending more money on family planning.  If we really want to reduce abortion in this country, reduce unintended pregnancy, we should be both supporting Planned Parenthood and we should be supporting family planning.  It‘s good for American people, it‘s good for American families.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, John Heilemann, that impressed me when I saw Steve Lynch, who‘s a true believer, a pro-life guy in Massachusetts, which is tough, which is a pro-choice state, from Southie—I know the guy, he‘s doing what he believes.  And in this case, he believes that this is better for the pro-life cause to have an opportunity for poor women to get birth control when they want it.  That‘s a choice for them, too.

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  Yes.  And Chris, I mean, I think you‘re pointing out that there is something of cleavage within the pro-life community.  I mean, there are some—some who are really committed primarily and centrally and maybe only to the notion of reducing abortions. 

There are others in that community who are obviously against abortion, but also are interested, in fact, in policing morality.  And what they‘re interested in, to some extent, is in birth control, if birth control means abstinence. 

And that is the agenda that they‘re really on.  And so they see—they‘re not exactly anti-birth control, but they‘re only pro-birth control when it‘s a certain kind of birth control that coheres to and adheres to a certain set of kind of moral strictures that they—that they—that they espouse. 

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m sure they‘re going around telling all the young men to participate in this program.  I‘m sure they‘re very active in that front. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You know I‘m being sarcastic. 

HEILEMANN:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  They never talk about that. 

HEILEMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Senate majority—it‘s like being there for the landing, not the takeoff.  That‘s what they‘re specialists at. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, let‘s go to Majority Leader Harry—I‘m being dead serious here.  They‘re not serious. 

Let‘s go to Harry Reid on the Senate floor this morning.  Let‘s watch him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there‘s nothing more important than keeping women from getting cancer screenings?  This is indefensible.  And everyone should be outraged, men and women. 

Republicans are asking me to sacrifice my wife‘s health, my daughter‘s health and my nine granddaughters‘ health. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Cecile, you may not want to talk politics, but it‘s all I care about most of the time.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  And I‘m looking at the independent voters in the suburbs -- 

RICHARDS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  -- where they‘re basically pro-choice.  They do—they are concerned, I think, about too many abortions.  They would like to see people not be in those situations, not having unwanted pregnancies.  They do want to be responsible about family planning.  They‘re with Planned Parenthood from the beginning. 

RICHARDS:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t see the win here for those Republicans who squeaked into those seats beating out Pat Murphy in Bucks County, beating out Chris Carney up around Scranton. 

Those—and Dahlkemper up there.  Those seats are now vulnerable, it seems to me, the Republican seats, that they have gotten into this overreach, I would call it, in terms of cultural issues.  What do you think politically? 

RICHARDS:  Look, it‘s been an incredible overreach.  And I think that‘s why we‘re hearing from literally hundreds of thousands of people around the country, men, women, Republicans, Democrats, folks who can‘t believe that we‘re now basically playing politics.  I think the House of Representatives is playing politics with women‘s health care. 

And the polling on this is unbelievable.  When you talk about women, women under the age of 50, they are absolutely opposed to any cuts like this.  And when you talk particularly about young people and young men and young women, these are the folks who come to Planned Parenthood, they rely on us for family planning, for birth control, for STD testing and treatment. 

We have been hearing from hundreds of thousands of them across the country.  One woman, Carolyn Smithers (ph), wrote in to us from Florida.  She had gotten her first PAP smear at Planned Parenthood when she was in her 20s.  She didn‘t have health insurance.  We detected cervical cancer.  She got cured.  Now she is a cancer survivor.  Her two daughters, they are in their 20s, are Planned Parenthood patients. 

That is the kind of person who is looking at them, saying, what is the federal government doing taking away cancer screening, preventive services for women?

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Well, let‘s—here is Pat Toomey, speaking in Pennsylvania.  Here‘s a guy who is a Club for Growth guy.  And I don‘t think he‘s a hard-liner on some of these issues.

RICHARDS:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  But he‘s talking here about this Planned Parenthood rider.  Here is Republican conservative, Club for Growth, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on “MORNING JOE” today.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MORNING JOE”)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  Neither side is going to get everything they‘d like.  I would like to defund Planned Parenthood, but I understand that Republicans don‘t have complete control of the elected government. 

So I think what we should do is cut spending as much as we can, get the policy changes that we can, but move on, because there are other bigger battles that we ought to be fighting. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, John Heilemann, he ain‘t no Rick Santorum, is he? 

HEILEMANN:  Right.  Right.  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Because Santorum would be loving this fight.  This would be the one he would want to go down on. 

HEILEMANN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  In fact, he did.

HEILEMANN:  Absolutely.

And, look, here is a reason why I think this is a mistake I think for Republicans politically.  It‘s a mistake on two levels, right?  On one level, it‘s a mistake because they have now given the Democrats this gift on the eve of the government shutdown—

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  -- when, before, they were framing this issue in terms of reducing spending.  That was a good issue for Republicans.  Now this issue is being framed aggressively by Democrats as being about Republican extremism on a cultural issue, that is to say abortion and women‘s health.  That is bad for Republicans. 

The other reason why it is bad for Republicans, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Why are they riding around in the church bus blasting away at NPR, Planned Parenthood?  How did they get on this bus, John? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, I think partly—I think partly it‘s because, Chris, we have all been slightly fooled by the notion.  Republicans were very disciplined in 2010 in terms of staying focused on fiscal issues, when in fact a lot of the new people in Congress are in fact also really deep cultural conservatives.

And that‘s now coming out.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  But let me—also, just let me say, what Senator Toomey made—when he made that point on “MORNING JOE,” it‘s really important.

He is saying, look, from a Republican standpoint, we have two huge battles coming up on the debt ceiling and on the 2012 budget.  Those are big—much, much bigger battles than this battle.  We have limited political capital.  Let‘s not squander it on something small. 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  Let‘s save it up for something big. 

And that‘s why I think it‘s the biggest mistake they could possibly be making right now.  They should take—take their victory home right now and live to fight the bigger battles with more political capital in their bag. 

MATTHEWS:  Biggest—biggest political mistake since Schiavo.  Schiavo brought them down in so many states, overreach, reaching into people‘s lives, against the normal, middle-of-the-road person, getting into things they shouldn‘t be getting involved with.  This is Schiavo country.  And this is what brought them down before and killed the career of people like Rick Santorum, whether he knows it or not.

Anyway, thank you, Cecile Richards.  And thank you, John Heilemann.

RICHARDS:  Great to see you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next—it always is.

Listen.  Listen to this sob story facing a Republican congressman if the government shuts down.  He‘s claiming he will have to ride a bike to the nearest YMCA to get a shower.  This is a strange sort of character here.  He‘s—well, wait until you meet him.  He lives in his office and he doesn‘t have a car and he makes about $180,000 a year.  You figure. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  And now to the “Sideshow.”  What a Friday night. 

First up, getting the bum‘s rush.  I think Donald Trump has reached a certain new level in politics.  He‘s getting beat up by the comics, even to the point of having his words played with.  Catch this from last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CONAN”)   

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST, “CONAN”:  Donald Trump was on “The Today Show” this morning to talk about running for president.  And a lot of people say that this is all a publicity stunt.  But I‘m going to give Trump some credit.  At least the guy is very honest.  Take a look. 

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  The people would look at that and go, the other—they would say, the guy, he has a reality show.

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS:  Not a reality show. 

(CROSSTALK)

VIEIRA:  I mean, is this the kind of person that‘s—that‘s presidential? 

TRUMP:  No, no, no.  I know this.  I will be a terrible president.  I have never taken it seriously.  If I decide to run, it‘s one of the greatest scams in the history of politics and in history, period. 

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP:  But it‘s pretty sad, because the whole world is looking at us and laughing at us. 

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP:  And, ultimately, we‘re going to destroy our own freedom. 

And, by the way, if I run, I will have pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, when I first began listening to that, I thought, wait a minute, for a nanosecond there, Donald is actually giving it all away. 

Of course, he was having his words manipulated for fun.  And, as I said, he‘s reached a certain level. 

Next up, high and dry.  Several dozen lawmakers actually live in their congressional offices here in Washington.  You know, the visitors go home at night.  The staff calls it quits.  And they hunker down.  They call their wives, eat a little something from McD‘s and watch “Leno,” I guess, all alone in those drafty old congressional marble buildings, a little spooky, I would say.

Anyway, even while those offices remain open if there‘s a shutdown, the House gym will not remain open during a shutdown.  And that‘s not just a fitness problem for these guys.  It‘s a hygiene problem for them, because no showers for the boys who live there at night, a scenario Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is now facing. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, a government shutdown might mean the building shower facilities are going to be shut off.  What are you going to do if that happens? 

(LAUGHTER)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ ®, UTAH:  I better figure out where the local YMCA is.  I bet there‘s one pretty close.  I do have a bicycle here.  So, I might be visiting that YMCA. 

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Well, let me get this straight.  The guy makes $174,000 a year.  He doesn‘t haven‘t a place to sleep at night, doesn‘t have a car to get there if he did.  Can‘t he find a roommate, get a cheap English basement somewhere on Capitol Hill?  And what‘s he doing with his congressional parking space anyway?  Strange dude.

Anyway, now for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

There‘s a lot of doomsday talk about the prospect of a government shutdown here in Washington.  Well, guess what?  It‘s happened before.  How many times?  Seventeen.  Are you going for it?  We‘re going for 18, it looks like, tonight.  We will see.  Seventeen government shutdowns so far, tonight‘s historic “Big Number.” 

Up next, President Obama‘s leadership style is yet again being tested, obviously, by this budget standoff, the government shutdown standoff, if you will.  So far, he‘s tried to appear above the fray.  And I think he‘s done a good job with that.  And while his base may want him to do more in terms of not cutting anything, he‘s making a play for the middle, where all the votes are.  That is ahead.  Let‘s watch how he‘s doing this fight tonight. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SIMON HOBBS, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening.  I‘m Simon Hobbs with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Modest losses heading into a weekend that could see a government shutdown, the Dow Jones industrials slipping nine points, the S&P 500 down five, the Nasdaq falling 15.  Most of the action today revolving around commodities and currencies.  Gold hit yet another record high, closing above $1,473 announce.  And oil prices hitting new highs as well, closing just under $113 a barrel. 

The main reason for it all, the dollar continues to sink across the board, as Asian and Middle East central banks continue to sell.  In stocks, some big names finished lower ahead of the official start of earning season next week.  Alcoa will kick off on Monday, with J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, and Google reporting later in the week. 

Toyota gained on word that it‘s resuming half-capacity production at its plants in Japan.  And travel site Expedia soared on news it‘s spinning off its TripAdvisor into a separate publicly-traded company. 

That‘s it from CNBC—now back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  What—well, we‘re back to HARDBALL.  And it‘s a crazy night.

President Obama has made numerous appearances this week.  He‘s been all over the place, some unscheduled, some planned, to push for an agreement on this budget deal to avoid a government shutdown.  Although he‘s been visible in the fight this week, he has made it clear that it‘s—he‘s the adult in the room and this is sort of a Washington fight among the Washington types. 

Let‘s watch him do it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think what they‘re looking from me is the same thing that they‘re looking from Speaker Boehner and Harry Reid and everybody else, and that is, is that we act like grownups. 

You want everybody to act like adults, quit playing games, realize that it‘s not just “my way or the highway.”  How many folks are married here?  When was the last time you just got your way? 

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  That‘s not how it works. 

And we‘re going to keep on pounding away at this thing, because I‘m absolutely convinced that we can get this done. 

We have been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet.  For us to go backwards because Washington couldn‘t get its act together is unacceptable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, how is President Obama weathering this test of leadership?  And it is a big one.

Mark Halperin is an MSNBC political analyst and he‘s “TIME” magazine editor at large, in fact.  Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the great “Washington Post” and an MSNBC political analyst. 

I want to go to Mark on this in terms of the numbers and the polling.  The polling does seem to show that among—among independents, suburbanites, if you will, as they find them in the polling, that they do want a compromiser here.  They want the president to be the guy going to the center, if you will, on the numbers. 

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  The White House has been brilliant and the president has been disciplined on message on two points, one, the one you just made, that the people want a compromise.  They want Washington to get this done and move on to other problems, like jobs. 

The other thing that he‘s done brilliantly is to be outside Washington, anti-Washington.  All incumbent presidents have this as their challenge, not just for reelection, but for governing.  He‘s cast himself as the person who is as sick as the country is of all this Washington stuff.  He just wants them to get it done. 

He‘s been really disciplined, really effective, day after day in filling that space. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Gene, that—you and I went through this. 

Reagan was good at that. 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He would all be out on the ranch or somewhere and he would be saying, you know, I work in Washington, but I don‘t really live there, and these guys are kind of a bunch of clowns and—

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Exactly.  It‘s an art form. 

And President Obama is learning to do it.  I think, in terms of his reelection strategy and his popularity and his standing with—especially with independents, I think he‘s done very well on this budget -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  How does he keep the left happy doing all this? 

ROBINSON:  Well, that‘s the thing. 

In terms of the actual numbers, the budget numbers, $38 billion in cuts or something like, which is where they will end up, is a lot.  That will not leave the left happy.  What would drive the left crazy would be if he caved, essentially, on Planned Parenthood and some of the—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, that‘s what I think.

Let me go back to Mark on that. 

Planned Parenthood is one of those issues that, you and I, we all—we all have been to fund-raisers, watched, and who shows up.  I don‘t think many Democratic contributors are pro-life.  They‘re pro-choice.  And if he would give on basically bamming or killing Planned Parenthood as a government partner, that would seem to be something that would not be forgiven.  Just be tough for the president for a minute on this one. 

HALPERIN:  Well, but it‘s not just about the contributors, in the sense that I think they probably believe they have public opinion on their side. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HALPERIN:  It‘s pretty clear the Republicans think so, too.  You don‘t hear John Boehner out there saying this is a fight about defunding Planned Parenthood.  He‘s trying to play that down. 

So, this is one where I think the president can stand up for what he believes, and stand up for what his contributors and supporters want, and have the winning political hand. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I guess because I have heard the word choice at every fund-raiser I have ever been to. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look.  Here is President Obama at a town meeting in Pennsylvania this week.  Again, as Gene points out, he‘s been going out of town.

Here he is talking about the fight about whether the government should shut down tonight.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘ve got Democrats mad at me.  But I said, “You know what?  Let‘s get past last year‘s budget and let‘s focus on the future.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, sometimes, Gene, he has that, he didn‘t have right there—but a minute ago, he had that great smile, that little boy smile of his, which is so winning.  And Mark notices it.  So, he brings it out.  I don‘t know whether it‘s technique—

ROBINSON:  It‘s the equivalent of the head waggle, the Reagan head waggle, I think.  It‘s charming.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, he only seems to be able to do it when he‘s winning.  I don‘t know if he can do it when he‘s losing.  And I look at that.  You do a side by side of him and—I always said this about Boehner, I‘m not being patronizing.

He‘s a great—he‘s got a bigger job than I do.  He‘s speaker of the House, obviously.  I‘m not talking down to him.

But the poor guy looks like he‘s schvitzing, he‘s sweating, he may be

crying.  And Obama has got that no sweat, I got it together and Boehner

comes on like, oh, do I have to do this?  I‘ve got to blast, what they say

Mark, somebody said he‘s got a blow torch in his back from the Tea Party?

           

HALPERIN:  You know, I—Chris, I respectfully submit I think that‘s overstated.  I think John Boehner—

MATTHEWS:  OK, tell me what‘s true.

HALPERIN:  I think he is—he is ideologically sympathetic with the Tea Party.  I think he understands the reality of how big a force they are, not just in Congress but around the country.  But also knows he‘s got to be the adult from the point of getting something passed.

He‘s like the president.  He may have things he wants but he‘s not all powerful.  But that doesn‘t mean that there‘s any great personal tension between them.  He got a big ovation today when he addressed the full conference, including those Tea Party freshmen, in talking about standing up to the president.  I think he‘s handled himself really well.

It‘s a tough situation.  He doesn‘t see totally eye to eye on tactics.  But in terms of the heart and his agenda, I think he‘s with the Tea Party every step of the way.

MATTHEWS:  But you think he‘s carrying this Planned Parenthood thing with any delight?

HALPERIN:  You know, he‘s pro-life, and I think Republicans have a good point when they say Democrats have been for riders in budget bills in the past when they controlled the process.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HALPERIN:  So, I don‘t think he does this all that reluctantly.  But, again, he‘s not out there full-throated saying this is a winning issue for us.  That doesn‘t mean he‘s not for it.  It just means he sees the politics of it as well.

MATTHEWS:  Terribly nuanced, sir.  Well done.

Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin, have a nice weekend.  I hope we might all have a nice weekend.  Who knows what‘s going to happen?

Anyway, Eugene Robinson, thank you.

Up next: well, the Tea Party is pushing John Boehner, well, no matter what Mark says, for deeper cuts.  We‘re going to see if the blame game goes to the president if it gets shutdown.  Will it be the president or Republicans?  Nobody is really going to know, I don‘t think, for a couple days.  But we‘ll try to find out tonight.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  Who gets hit on this one?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  The looming government shutdown here in Washington will keep President Obama in town over the weekend.  He canceled plans to take the first family down to Williamsburg in Virginia.  Boy, I love that place.  A statement from the White House late today says the president will continue to work with congressional leaders to avert a shutdown this weekend.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.

Is the Tea Party pushing for a shutdown?  Democrats in Congress say so.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  The Tea Party is trying to push through its extreme agenda.  The Tea Party doesn‘t want scientists to make sure the air we breathe is clean and pure.  The Tea Party cheers for a shutdown.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  Stand up to the Tea Party once and for all?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  Tea Party folks and others -- 

REID:  And now, the Tea Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tea Party.

REID:  Tea Party.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Tea Party.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know who they‘re fighting.  Does the Tea Party actually hold a key to a spending compromise and will they give Speaker Boehner room to cut the deal?

Joining me now is an expert, a leader of the Tea Party: Matt Kibbe is president of FreedomWorks.  And we also have MSNBC‘s analyst, David Corn of “Mother Jones.”

Well, you know, I love the notion of you two guys sitting next to each other.  I think it‘s right and left, right?  Do you agree?  It‘s right.

MATT KIBBE, FREEDOMWORKS:  It‘s right.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  The Tea Party is very right.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  One we can agree on that.  So, you‘re left, you‘re right.  He‘s left.

OK.  Tea Party, are you willing to take responsibility for this coup d‘etat?

KIBBE:  I hope Harry Reid keeps attacking the Tea Party, because you got to understand that these are people all over America who have a set of values.  But we‘re not a political party.  This is the same strategy the Democrats pursuit in November.  It didn‘t work then.  It‘s not going to work now.

And when they attack the idea that we—that the government should stop spending money it doesn‘t have, they‘re attacking the very center of the American voting public.

MATTHEWS:  So, you‘ll take the heat?

KIBBE:  I‘m happy to take the heat.  If you want to blame me that—fine.

MATTHEWS:  David Corn, why are the Democrats focusing on the Tea Party and not on the regular Republican leaders in all the big states?

CORN:  Well, there was a Pew study that came out this week that said that the American public has soured, or is souring on the Tea Party, that they don‘t agree with them.  It‘s down to 22 percent of Americans agree with the Tea Party.  That‘s not a very high number.  So—

MATTHEWS:  How many?

CORN:  Twenty-two -- 22 percent.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s how they asked the question?

CORN:  That‘s how they asked the question.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s look at these polls, I get to the great polls. 

I got a better poll than that.  Let‘s go to this one.

It shows why the Democrats want to compromise and why the Republicans don‘t.  And this is a great number.  “Wall Street Journal”-NBC poll, it‘s a straight poll.  Here it is, look -- 68 percent of Democrats think their party‘s leaders should compromise on the budget, only 26 percent say stick to the policies.  Now, let‘s look at the other side.  Among Republicans, 56 percent are opposed to their leaders forging any compromise; 38 percent—a little more mixed.

I have a theory about this.  Why do Democrats want to compromise, Republicans don‘t want to compromise?

KIBBE:  Because I think the Democrats have misplayed their hand and almost too gleefully wrung their hands in public saying, “I hope the government shuts down.”

MATTHEWS:  But why though why did Democratic voters, not politicians -

why do regular people who vote Democrat want their leaders to compromise?

           

KIBBE:  Because all Americans understand you can‘t keep spending money you don‘t have.

MATTHEWS:  So, you agree that both are moved by the same impulse to cut spending?

KIBBE:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s fair.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- be such liberals.  And the conservatives are saying, be more conservative.

CORN:  The Democrats are saying that we‘re willing to work with you—

Democrat, you know, the base and the leadership.  And they‘ve offered—

MATTHEWS:  Meet with you on lower government spending.

CORN:  On lower government spending, yes.  I think they‘ve given too

much, but they have acted reasonable.  What we‘ve seen in the last few days

is that not only on economic issues, but on a social issue, on giving women

health services through Planned Parenthood and other clinics, the Tea Party

and the Republican Party are saying no.  So, it‘s not a fiscal issue that‘s

--

           

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s see if you agree.  Do you agree it‘s about dollars, it‘s about spending?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is it about birth control and Planned Parenthood?

CORN:  What‘s the Tea Party position on Planned Parenthood?

MATTHEWS:  The Tea Party position on the budget—

CORN:  No, on Planned Parenthood and the rider, what is the Tea Party‘s position on women‘s health services?

KIBBE:  You understand that the pea party the primarily motivated by fiscal issues.

CORN:  I understand that.

KIBBE:  As fiscal issue, everything needs to be on the table.  Planned Parenthood needs to be on the table.  Defense needs to be on the table.  I would put—

CORN:  Why blocking this bill because there‘s no big defense cuts?  Why is the Tea Party not screaming about that?  Why are they only focusing on women‘s health issues?

KIBBE:  The Tea Party is not screaming about women‘s health issues.

CORN:  Mike Pence is.  All these people are supporting -- 

KIBBE:  I love Mike Pence.  But the bottom line is, we got to cut the

deficit.  And here‘s the bottom line

CORN:  Should they give up the -- 

MATTHEWS:  Matt, what do you think the -- 

KIBBE:  Sixty-one 61 billion which was the Republicans‘ leading offer on this is 4 percent of this year‘s budget deficit, 4 percent.  And we‘re squabbling about peanuts relative to that.  So, I say put everything on the table and get the biggest number you can.

CORN:  And get rid of this policy rider and put that aside for now?

KIBBE:  I‘m not interested in the policy riders.  I‘m interested in—

CORN:  And why are the Republicans sticking to that?

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t have to answer for the Republicans.

CORN:  No, I‘m just asking why he thinks that.

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t have to answer for the Republicans.  You‘re arguing with the wrong guy.

CORN:  I‘m just asking why you think they‘re doing that.  Should they

--

           

KIBBE:  I‘m not

CORN:  -- you‘d like to see a deal?  Would you like to see a deal?

MATTHEWS:  See, here are now.  But now, we see the politics of this.  This is about ideology with you, David.  I know what you‘re up to.  You want the bad guys to be not boring John Boehner but exciting Tea Party people.

CORN:  No, I think John Boehner is doing the bidding of the exciting Tea Party people.

MATTHEWS:  But you don‘t want to attack Boehner.

CORN:  But I don‘t think it‘s just the Tea Party.

MATTHEWS:  But he says he‘s not.  But he disagrees with you.  He says he doesn‘t have a blow torch at his back and Mark Halperin just backed him up, saying Boehner is Boehner is Boehner.  Don‘t blame somebody else on Boehner.  The Republican speaker of the House is doing what he believes in, protecting or cutting spending for Planned Parenthood.

CORN:  But he‘s also protecting the 87 or so Tea Party, whatever you want to call them, freshmen, who are also acting as if they‘re -- 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you something.  We are learning something here.  Past the government shutdown, if the government shuts down for a few weeks, or it may.  I have no idea if they‘re going to reach a deal.  Would you be happy if they shut down for, say, a couple of weeks over the issue of government spending?

KIBBE:  I think the only thing worse than a government shutdown is not doing something serious.

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s the better of the two options?

KIBBE:  It may be inevitable because the Democrats seem to think it‘s a good political strategy.

MATTHEWS:  Why?

KIBBE:  The Democrats seem to think it‘s a good political strategy for them.

MATTHEWS:  But don‘t you think the president is giving a lot here?

KIBBE:  Right.  I don‘t think there‘s going to be a shutdown, by the way.

CORN:  But he‘s giving a lot because he doesn‘t believe there should be a shutdown because I think he‘s being -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let‘s look ahead.  I‘ve been saying this, and you can check me on this, because you are an authoritative figure, and you can check me on this.  No, you can‘t.

KIBBE:  I will, though.

MATTHEWS:  Next summer—late summer, when it‘s really hot in Florida, and I‘m going to this scenario because I always think about the endgame.  Tampa, Republican National Convention, lots of Tea Party people there hooting and hollering, they‘ve never been to a convention before in their lives.  They might not be dressed right but they‘re going to have the time of their life.  They‘ll be staying at the days inn.  They won‘t be rich.  And they‘re going to be so happy to be here.

Up steps a boring guy like Mitt Romney or Pawlenty or one of these guys, are you guys going to get excited about something like that as the nominee if you‘re the Tea Party person there?

KIBBE:  You know, every one of the Republican candidates right now is talking the talk.  They‘re talking the Tea Party umbrage.

MATTHEWS:  So, you got them?

KIBBE:  So, we want to see where they‘re going to be, are they going to walk the talk.

MATTHEWS:  So, you are calling the shots.  I tricked you into it.  You are calling the shots in the Republican Party now.

KIBBE:  I hope so.

MATTHEWS:  I got you back to where he was, which is the Tea Party‘s calling the shots.

CORN:  They want to be calling the shots -- 

MATTHEWS:  You know what you‘ve just been done.  You‘ve just been playing HARDBALL with me.  You have now been tricked into saying that you know that you are calling the shots.  You‘re blushing.

KIBBE:  No, no, the American people are calling the shots.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  I think Dick Armey.

MATTHEWS:  So, your argument is right, behind the blow torch is behind the back of John Boehner.

CORN:  I think Dick Armey and FreedomWorks and all their corporate sponsors are -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Here we go.  Here it is.

CORN:  No, it is—you can look it up.  You want to be authoritative about this.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

CORN:  OK.  We‘ll come back and you ask them for their funders and their donors and, you know, see who‘s -- 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re confident is not going to happen.  Do you think it will happen?

CORN:  Oh, the shutdown?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CORN:  I think there‘s a pretty good chance that it might.  But

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  Thank you, Matt Kibbe.  You‘re always welcome here, sir.  Thank you.

KIBBE:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Even when you‘re wrong.  And even you‘re always right.  Anyway, David Corn—except t for tonight.  Let me finish—actually, you‘re right tonight.

“Let Me Finish” with the sensitive questions at the center this battle over Planned Parenthood.  It‘s dead serious stuff.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with this battle over Planned Parenthood.  It‘s no trivial thing.  Unintended pregnancies arise when people don‘t use birth control or don‘t use it consistently.  But I don‘t have to tell you that, of course.

So what should society do about it?  Should the U.S. government encourage the use of birth control to reduce the number of pregnancies or not?

Pretty fair question, I‘d say.  If you see an equal moral problem with both birth control and abortion, then it probably would not make any sense whatever to do that, to promote one in order to avoid the other.

But, and this is the point on which much of this debate over Planned Parenthood hangs.  If you do believe control is a far better—a far better alternative to abortion, should the government be providing it?  Is giving people information and counseling and help in birth control something the government should be doing?  Is it a good thing for our society to be giving women an alternative to an unwanted pregnancy, one that in a sizable share of cases would end up as an abortion?

Well, this is a morally sensitive terrain.  I realize that.  It‘s sensitive to talk about it.  But right now, the government does give birth control information and help to women.  It does it through Planned Parenthood.  And the Republicans want to stop that.

So, here are the best facts available, according to the research.  Publicly-financed birth control prevents 2 million pregnancies a year.  And based on historic patterns, like it or not, that means 800,000 fewer abortions in this country.  Is that a worthwhile achievement or not?  Ask yourself.

The doctors and nurses of Planned Parenthood provide a number of other services to women besides birth control to 2.5 million people a year, a million screenings a year for cervical cancer, almost as many for breast exams a year, 4 million tests for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.  Planned Parenthood also provides abortion services, which are banned from being funded by the government and do not get money for that from the government.

So, the question is whether it‘s a good thing for the government, as I said, to back birth control in these other areas of women‘s health, preventive health or is it not a good thing?  Because Planned Parenthood does on the side something the government is not supposed help with and doesn‘t help with?

The Republicans‘ answer is no.  It is not a good thing and that‘s why they‘re closing down the government.

This is serious business.

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

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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