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updated 6/1/2011 10:47:01 AM ET 2011-06-01T14:47:01

Guests: Howard Fineman, Sue Herera, Eugene Robinson, Mark Halperin, Dennis Kucinich, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Russ Carnahan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Easy rider.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Thunder without lightning.  What‘s it all about, Sarah?  You‘re running for something, or just running.  You‘re on the bus, Gus, but what‘s the destination?  In Washington this weekend with the MIA crowd, the bikers with those ponytails, in Philly today at the Liberty Bell, tonight, din-din with Donald Trump.  But what‘s it all about?  Mount Vernon, Ft. McHenry, Gettysburg.  Where are you heading?  Arizona‘s the other way.  If that‘s your new home base, what‘s the operation you‘re looking at?  Sarah Palin‘s traveling Wild West show is our top story tonight.

You know why we‘re asking?  Because this Republican field is so dull that the candidates have to bring giant trunks along with them to carry all the boredom.  Boring.  Romney, Huntsman, Pawlenty—just the sound of it has Iowa Republicans traveling to New Jersey today to court Governor Chris Christie.  Activists in New Hampshire are meeting with Rudy Giuliani this week. 

And Texas governor Rick Perry—you know, the secessionist—now says he‘s thinking about running for president of United States, not the republic of Texas.  Can any of these guys fill the star power vacuum for the Republican Party?  Our strategists are going to try to nail that one.

Plus, the cost of the war in Afghanistan can be the tipping point for a sizable troop withdrawal this July.  The price tag this year alone—you won‘t believe it -- $113 billion.  Next year, another $107 billion.  Add to that bin Laden‘s death, and of course, a narrowly defeated House vote to accelerate an exit strategy, and what you get is American patience running out on Afghanistan.

Also, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor really stepped in it this weekend.  He says those Missouri tornado victims, you know them, should receive federal emergency aid only if it‘s paid for with other budget cuts.  Yes, taking out the deficit frustrations on people who lost their homes in one of the worst natural disasters on record is really not the way to go.

“Let Me Finish” tonight with what Sarah Palin really wants to be.  I got an idea.

Let‘s start with Palin‘s tour.  Eugene Robinson is a “Washington Post” columnist and Howard Fineman is the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director.  Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, a lot of heavyweight brain power here for something that might be as small as a gnat—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  -- which is what is going on with Sarah‘s schlep.  She‘s schlepping all around.  I love all these spots.  I love the people she‘s meeting.  They couldn‘t be better Americans, the people at the Liberty Bell, the people—she‘s going to Ellis Island, I hear.

Here‘s Palin Monday in D.C. on the Republican field.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VP NOMINEE:  Any Republican candidate is very, very electable.  I think Americans are ready for true change, change to get our country back on the right track.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Does that mean you‘re interested in running? 

Are you going run?

PALIN:  You know, we‘re still kind of contemplating that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  I just don‘t get it.  I don‘t get it.  It‘s only exciting because the Republican Party is just without any excitement.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  She‘s—she‘s not running.  She‘s not—but she‘s a political celebrity.

MATTHEWS:  I‘m getting sardonic—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I think we‘re getting agreement here, the big three here—

ROBINSON:  She‘s not a candidate.  She just plays one on television.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  I think the three of us might reach agreement here. 

Is she running for president of the United States?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I judge this based on the people I know in New Hampshire whom she would be calling were she running.  And I just got off—just before I came on the air, I talked to one of them, who said that she has been repeatedly trying to get Sarah Palin‘s people to return her calls because she, this person organizer up there, conservative organizer, wants to work for Sarah Palin.  She hasn‘t gotten a call—

MATTHEWS:  I got another theory—

FINEMAN:  Wait a second.  As far as this person knows, neither has anybody else—

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think she‘s running.

FINEMAN:  -- in New Hampshire.

MATTHEWS:  No ground game, no organization—

FINEMAN:  That‘s what I‘m saying.

MATTHEWS:  -- no sign of life.  And Roger Ailes has let her keep on television.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  He is fastidious—

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  -- about dumping people who are running for president .  Here‘s Palin Monday in Gettysburg on the purpose of her tour.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  I think the Republican field is already quite strong.  It‘s going to change up a lot and I think that there will be more strong candidates jumping in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE :  Are you enjoying messing with our heads a little bit?

PALIN:  No, no, no.  That‘s not the purpose.  It really isn‘t because the purpose is to make sure that people are aware of the good things in America that really do need to be restored and appreciated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here you go.  Here he is—she is, really doing something unique.  It‘s the Freedom Trail.  I forget the name we used to call it in Massachusetts, of all of the freedom spots.  It‘s wonderful about America—

ROBINSON:  The Freedom Trail.

MATTHEWS:  -- the Freedom Trail.  I love it.  It‘s really great.  And I do think you meet some really nice people.  She looks great in this helmet, I got to say.  I don‘t know where she‘s heading in the helmet, but you can‘t look better than that.  There she is with a biker.  He doesn‘t have the ponytail.  I mentioned that ponytails are popular among—here she is doing something brilliant.

She‘s going to the disenfranchised guys, right, left and center, who wear the costumes of the Vietnam-era guys our age who dress like that, with the usual statement, The government has screwed you.  It‘s left behind GIs who fought for our country that were captured and as part of some sick, awful deal left them behind to die in prison over there.  That‘s what she‘s working with.

FINEMAN:  And also, the—

MATTHEWS:  Behaviors (ph) of the government.

FINEMAN:  Yes, but also the patriot—people who regard themselves as the true patriots, who—

MATTHEWS:  Who don‘t like the government.

FINEMAN:  -- who‘ve been ignored.  These are the true patriots.  And that‘s sort of what the Tea Party says to itself, We‘re the true patriots.  We‘re really angry with the government—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  -- which claims to be the patriotic force in America, but we are the true patriots.  So that‘s—

MATTHEWS:  So what is she running for, Gene?  I‘m getting to the end of my show tonight (INAUDIBLE) to what I want to say tonight.  She‘s not running for president, she‘s running for anti-president or something like that.

ROBINSON:  No, she‘s running to be the Evita Peron of the kind of Tea Partyish—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

ROBINSON:  -- rut (ph).

MATTHEWS:  -- what will she do next summer in—now I‘ll get—you get to my closing comments tonight because I really think this is where she‘s going.  I think there‘s brains behind it.  Toby Keith, a lot of the country stars, have written very—and sung very patriotic songs.  They‘re heroes to the American cultural right.  They know who they are.  They‘re not running for president, but they are leaders in a certain way.

Is she going for one of those positions, or does she want to be king or queen caucus?  Next summer, late in the summer, she goes to Tamp and she says to Mitt or Tim, whoever wins the nomination, or Huntsman, and says to them, Yes, I want Rick Perry on the ticket, or the Tea Party‘s not there.  Is she going to use that kind of power?  I think she will.

ROBINSON:  Well, if she has it, she‘ll use it.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  There are other party—

MATTHEWS:  So this is a political campaign she‘s—

ROBINSON:  -- grandees who—

MATTHEWS:  So this is the build (ph) up to political power here.

ROBINSON:  Well, I think—I think she wants it build up political power, influence, visibility.  You know, it‘s not only good for her influence, and one could say, you know, it treats her narcissism, but—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I don‘t think it‘s all psychological.

ROBINSON:  No, no, no.  I don‘t think she‘s stupid at all.  I think—

MATTHEWS:  I think it‘s politics.

ROBINSON:  She may be shallow and lazy, but she‘s not stupid.

MATTHEWS:  If Tim Pawlenty were riding around on a bike, nobody‘d notice.

ROBINSON:  The other thing it does, you know, I think, is it boosts her speaking fees.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, well, you guys are cynical!

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  No, no, no.  I—

MATTHEWS:  OK, here she is.  Let‘s take a look here (INAUDIBLE) Howard.  Howard, here she is.  Here‘s more on Palin Monday.  This is a time on her bus with Fox News colleague Greta Van Susteren.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  And I‘ve said from the beginning this isn‘t a campaign tour, except to campaign on our Constitution, our charters of liberty.  And they want kind of a conventional idea of, We want a schedule, we want to follow you, we want you to bring us along with you.  I‘m like, A, I don‘t think I own anything to the mainstream media.  I think that it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician and doing things the way that it‘s always been done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  There she is, giving an interview to Fox, where she works, with a colleague, Greta, who works with her.  And isn‘t Greta‘s husband a big one of her advisers, Tom (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  I think Sarah Palin—and Gene made the Eva Peron comparison.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  But she‘s going for some other type of power here.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  She wants power.  She wants real political power.  But she believes that the current system, the nominating system, the electoral system and the media system, are bankrupt.  And she can show that by gaining power in other ways.

Now, what she will—how she‘s going to trade in all her Monopoly money at the end, I don‘t know.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

FINEMAN:  But she is certainly a running commentary on the bankruptcy on the rest of the system.

MATTHEWS:  OK, is she sneaking in here before Bachmann announces  for president?  Because the minute Bachmann announces, should she announce, and she said she‘ll decide in June, this will be a road show.  This will be an Annie Oakley Wild West show.  But the minute Bachmann runs as a U.S.  congressperson, a lawyer, a tax (ph) person with professional experience who runs as a member of Congress, runs for the presidency, doesn‘t she bump her as the figure on the right, the cultural right?

ROBINSON:  Well, she gets taken more seriously than Sarah Palin.  I mean, you know, as you pointed out, this isn‘t—we shouldn‘t look at this as like a cat fight.  I mean, they—

MATTHEWS:  No, I don‘t look at it like that.  I look at—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  The only two cultural right figures happen to be female.  But I‘m—I talked to David Yepsen today.  He said if Bachmann—let‘s shift to Bachmann.  If she runs in Waterloo, Iowa, from Waterloo, Iowa, and she runs in the Iowa caucus—history says geography trumps everything else out there.  If you‘re from the Midwest and you‘re also ideologically in tune with the church people—Bachmann wins the Iowa caucuses and starts the presidential campaign next year in the beginning as the leader.  And where‘s Palin in all this?

FINEMAN:  Well, that‘s the Pat Robertson scenario.  But look, there‘s no doubt that the incidental damage, the collateral damage of this tour is to Michele Bachmann because Michele Bachmann, as seriously as you want to take her—and she‘s seven generations (INAUDIBLE) et cetera, et cetera—just doesn‘t have the star power that Sarah Palin does.  And this is—this is—

MATTHEWS:  But if she runs, she runs.

FINEMAN:  If she runs, she runs.

ROBINSON:  If she runs, she runs.

FINEMAN:  That‘s what I‘m saying.  Palin is looking for power of a kind on the outside—

MATTHEWS:  I agree.  She‘s going on the inside.  Michele‘s going on the inside.

FINEMAN:  Yes, Michele‘s going on the inside—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Here she is—here she is—I should call her

Congresswoman Bachmann.  Here she is Monday in New Hampshire, Congresswoman Bachmann running for president, I believe.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  We‘re very close.  I have just announced on Thursday that I‘ll be making my announcement in the state where I was born, Iowa, and in the city of my birth, which is Waterloo, Iowa.  So I‘m looking forward to making that announcement next month.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do you feel about the thought of Sarah Palin getting in the race?  Would you like to see her in?

BACHMANN:  Well, I think we‘re going to have a very wide, deep bench of great candidates to come against Barack Obama.  And if I decide to throw my hat in the ring, I think that I‘ll do very favorably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that?

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, the thing is, Michele Bachmann believes is an ideologue.  She believes in an ideology.

MATTHEWS:  She‘s for real.

ROBINSON:  She is for real.  She‘s serious.  Sarah Palin‘s ideology, I believe—and maybe call me cynical—is situational.  It certainly was when she was governor of Alaska.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think she‘s—

ROBINSON:  Look what she did.

MATTHEWS:  -- a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show figure, that she‘s just this cultural Wild West show?

ROBINSON:  I do think she wants power and influence, but I don‘t think she is a pure, kind of rightist Tea Party—

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON:  -- ideologue—

FINEMAN:  However—

ROBINSON:  -- the way Bachmann is.

FINEMAN:  However, the temper of the times is such that Sarah Palin appeals to a lot of really disaffected people.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  The bikers.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  She touches a lot of disaffected people who are actually—Gene says situational—it‘s more cynical than situational.  In other words, I think—I think Palin is going to touch every button of all of the disaffected people all the way along and see how far that takes her because she‘s comfortable in that role and that‘s what she‘s good at.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Look at her.

FINEMAN:  And she will—and she will make fun of and stand outside of the traditional process probably all the way along because the moment she gets in the traditional process, whatever clout and magic she has is gone.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s my belief about her—stagecraft.  Nobody‘s got it like her.  You put her—I mean, the way she moves, the kinetic force of her manner, maybe even her voice pattern—there‘s something there that‘s electrifying.  When he (INAUDIBLE) she‘s obviously a very attractive person.  When she gets out on the road there, it‘s something different than sitting in a booth in Wasilla doing—doing, you know, Roger Ailes‘s sort of TV items.  It doesn‘t work.

Look at her!  This is why we‘re talking about her because she‘s moving.  When she gets into action—you‘re smiling, but I‘m serious.

ROBINSON:  No, you‘re right.

MATTHEWS:  When she gets into action, you can‘t beat this candidate!  Palin can walk, Pawlenty can‘t walk.  You never see Pawlenty doing anything!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Pawlenty doesn‘t do!  Look at her!  She‘s doing things.  She‘s shaking hands.  She‘s moving around.  And there‘s something in that kinetic action that‘s electrifying that the other—Romney—I said before he belongs in the Hall of the Presidents.  He‘s one of those big machines that talks like Lincoln, but you know, who cares!

FINEMAN:  The difference is that Sarah Palin doesn‘t have to answer any questions this way.  In other words, she‘s kinetic—

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

FINEMAN:  She‘s moving right along.  She doesn‘t have to talk about—

ROBINSON:  That‘s exactly right.

FINEMAN:  -- the health care bill and Medicare and everything else.

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s something to drive liberals and a lot of reasonable people insane.  Here‘s Romney saying something that nobody on God‘s earth believes he believes.  He‘s just playing this artful game of being a front-runner.  He‘s like an anchorman.  Here he is, NBC‘s Jamie—no insult to anchormen.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Here he is with Jamie Gangel on Tuesday on “TODAY.”  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FORMER GOVERNOR:  He‘s been one of the most ineffective presidents at the job at hand that I‘ve ever seen.  The number one issue he faced walking in the door was an economy that was in fast decline.  He didn‘t cause that, but he made things worse.

JAMIE GANGEL, NBC:  Overall, give me a grade on his presidency.  How‘s he done?

ROMNEY:  Well, it‘s failed.

GANGEL:  An F.

ROMNEY:  Absolutely.  This president felt it appropriate to go around the world and apologize for America.  I don‘t apologize for America.  I‘m proud of America.  He doesn‘t have a foreign policy.

The president has embarrassed himself there and around the world by convincing out friends that in some respects, it‘s better to be a foe of America than a friend!  Is Iran closer to a bomb?  Yes.  Is North Korea more turbulent and assertive?  Yes.  Does Israel feel at greater peace?  No.  The Arab spring came, one of the greatest opportunities that we‘ve seen in decades, and we‘ve been flat-footed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ask Osama bin Laden if it was better to be our enemy.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What is he talking about?  I mean, it‘s robotic.  He doesn‘t believe he‘s the worst president in history.  He does not—nobody believes—he thinks he‘s a failed presidency.  What he ought to say is, I can do a better job on the economy.  Why doesn‘t he talk like a thoughtful person?

FINEMAN:  It‘s because last time, he tried thoughtful, and it didn‘t work.

MATTHEWS:  So what‘s he trying for now?

FINEMAN:  He‘s trying sound bit.  He‘s trying hard-right sound bite. 

That‘s what they‘ve trained him in.

MATTHEWS:  Does anybody believe—

FINEMAN:  That‘s what they‘ve trained him in.

MATTHEWS:  Does anybody believe he‘s a hard-right politician, the guy who brought—

FINEMAN:  No.

MATTHEWS:  -- socialized medicine to Massachusetts?

FINEMAN:  No, but hard-right sound bite.  You know, that‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He‘s done everything they don‘t like, and yet he‘s—you know, he only has one thing going for him, four years as Massachusetts governor, and he‘s disowned the whole four years.  So what‘s he got going for him?

FINEMAN:  Well, the other thing—

MATTHEWS:  This robotic performance?  I just—I think this is immaterial.

FINEMAN:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  I think that‘s why Palin‘s operating with all this interest right now and why Bachmann will be a factor and beat him in Iowa.

Thank you, Howard Fineman.  Thank you, Gene—I‘ll have more to say at the end of the show.  Boring is going to lose always.

Coming up: House Democrats are showing real—by the way, they have (INAUDIBLE) They carry trunks around with them to carry all the boredom they have to bring with them.

Anyway, real unity.  For the first time, Democrats are saying on the Hill, almost all of them, Get out of Afghanistan.  This is a big development.  This is something new this summer.  Finally, the Democratic Party has a position on a war which is clear—We‘re coming home.  Is this a shift for the president‘s party?  Maybe he‘s ahead of the party.  Maybe they‘re ahead of him, I mean.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, President Obama‘s got a nice bump in the latest CNN Opinion Research poll.  Look at this.  He‘s got two groups of voters to thank for this, Republicans and senior citizens.  Overall, he‘s up to 54 percent approval—that‘s high for him -- 45 percent negative, of course. 

But 54 is pretty darn good for him.  And while his numbers among Democrats and independents are virtually unchanged since last month—take a look at this—since last month, the president‘s approval rating among Republicans is up 12.  Of course, it was up from a low rate, but a 12-point pop.  Among seniors, it‘s up 9 points.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Obama is expected to begin the first troop withdrawals from Afghanistan at the end of July—that‘s this summer.  And the variable that may have the greatest influence on the size of that reduction is the price tag of this war.  These military operations this year alone have cost this government $113 billion.  That‘s to put our men and women in the field over there.  Next year, it‘ll be about the same amount of money.

Could the cost of this 10-year war force us to accelerate our exit strategy?  This is a big question right now for Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.  He‘s been a vocal opponent of this war.

You know, Congressman, I agree with you on this fundamental issue.  I wonder if the party has the cohesion, the unity to really fight this out and keep fighting to get us out of Afghanistan.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO:  Oh, I think we do.  I think that we saw that at the Democratic National Committee a few months ago.  And I also think that the vote on the amendment the other day that you spoke of earlier in the show is a good sign that the Democrats are closing ranks, recognizing that we just can‘t afford these wars and that we have to start paying attention to our domestic agenda.

MATTHEWS:  This guy Karzai, what do you make of him?  I mean, he is the guy that—who is heading the government over there.  He is really all we got as a president over there.  He was saying the other day, because some civilians were killed in collateral damage, that he‘s saying that basically we are occupiers now.  He is comparing us to the Soviets, like in “Charlie Wilson‘s War.”

Is he an ally? 

KUCINICH:  Well, the civilian casualties ought to be everyone‘s concern.

But, as far as Karzai, the biggest problem with Karzai is that he can‘t be trusted.  His family is making money off of the U.S. presence.  Drug trafficking has gone up in his country and from Afghanistan during the time of the United States‘ occupation, and I think that, you know, Karzai is making a lot of money and as long as he can try to call the shots for the United States, well, he is making a lot of money.  That‘s what he will do. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the fact that some conservatives—I‘m not sure in Congress, but some conservatives are joining your cause? 

KUCINICH:  Well, I think that there is an awareness, both left and right, that the—that America‘s reached its limits of our resources, not only in Afghanistan, but Iraq, and we may see the same thing in a vote that we are going to have tomorrow on Libya. 

There‘s a concern that with all of these problems here at home, debate over the debt limit, the idea of breaking the budget, the fact that the Pentagon spends 50 percent—consumes 50 percent of all discretionary spending, here, you said it on your show.  The Republicans are saying, we don‘t even have money to take care of tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

KUCINICH:  Well, if you see a situation like that, the—something has got to give somewhere.  And I think it‘s going to go where the huge amounts of money are being spent.  And that is on the wars, $10 billion a month in Afghanistan, $1 million per soldier per year.

We telescope that out another 10 years, it‘s—we have broken the bank already.  It will just be more reductions in domestic spending. 

MATTHEWS:  Are we going to hear your voice in Congress after this Congress?  Are you going to be able to get a seat out in Seattle, where you can—like in the British system, find—I‘m with you.  I‘m a Churchill nut.  He moved five different times, I think, different seats when he got beaten in different places.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m all for trying the voters.

You seem to represent philosophically people in Seattle I have gotten to know.  Remember Congressman Lowry over the years out there and McDermott.  You seem to be a good fit out there.  Can you make that move and still be a congressman in Ohio?  Or will you be treated like LeBron James?

(LAUGHTER)

KUCINICH:  If I could only play basketball like him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, they are mad at him for leaving, even if he wins the championship.  So, what do—where are you on this?

KUCINICH:  Well, no, I could just tell that I have not made any decisions about where to move.  My district is bound to be affected in the redistricting.  I don‘t know exactly where I will end up at this point.  I would like to stay in Congress.  But I‘m not the only one who will have a say on that, obviously. 

MATTHEWS:  The filing dead—rather, the primary is August 21, 2012, in Washington State.  When would you have to move out there to run? 

KUCINICH:  Well, anyone who wants to run for Congress anywhere has to be mindful of what filing—when filing deadlines are.  And you have to qualify first as a registered voter wherever you are going to run.  And that‘s usually before the filing deadline. 

In any event, Chris, I haven‘t made—

MATTHEWS:  Can you be a congressman from Ohio and a registered voter in Washington State? 

KUCINICH:  No, I haven‘t made a decision yet about a candidacy.

MATTHEWS:  But can you be? 

KUCINICH:  But the answer to your question is no.  No, that‘s—that‘s not possible. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

KUCINICH:  You have to live in the area that—where you are running.  And if you are running in an area, you have to be a registered voter.  So, I haven‘t crossed that bridge yet.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me make a promise to you.  Let me make a promise to you.  Should you make this incredible decision, we will be covering your campaign within enthusiasm.  And that‘s a fact.

KUCINICH:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s a fact.  I have some influence around here.  I would find it a dandy proposition that somebody from the Democratic left could find another constituency which was just as hospitable to him, even if he would be screwed by the legislature of his home state.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, sir.  Thank you. 

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH:  Thank you very much.  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming up.

“TIME” magazine‘s Mark Halperin is here.  He‘s an MSNBC senior political analyst.

Mark, let‘s talk about this issue.  We rarely get a big war issue that really divides like in the days of George McGovern where you have one party on one side, even if not represented by the president.  Is that how this thing is going to square out this summer, the issue of Afghanistan, whether we come home faster? 

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, you still have the balance of thought in the Republican Party and you still have the balance of balance—power at the Pentagon—balance of thought at the Pentagon and the balance of thought among neoconservatives that this war should be continue to be fought. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HALPERIN:  So far, that‘s the course the president has gone on.

There are many people around the president, there are some Republican presidential candidates and there are some, obviously, as you said, up there, a large balance of thought in the Congress that this needs to change. 

I think the big two pieces don‘t fit into any of those categories.  One is General Petraeus, who will be moving over to the CIA.  He‘s been a leading advocate of what‘s—and a persuasive advocate.  And the other is public opinion. 

I think until and unless public opinion really gets engaged, it is going to be harder for the president, even if he wants to make a big change, to make a big change. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the fact, two factors?  One, only eight Democrats opposed this sort of symbolic vote last week to basically pull—begin to pull out.  And the other was the $113 billion.  This figure just stunned me. 

I‘m a hard believer in the fact that that is really an incremental cost, that if you brought all the troops home and put them somewhere in the United States, you would actually save all that money.  But it does look like a huge expenditure for a war that seems to be problematic right now, especially with Karzai showing absolutely disdain for us at this point, or huge disrespect I think is a better word. 

HALPERIN:  It‘s a huge expenditure.

And let me just start by one thing I said.  Public opinion is against the war, depending on how you measure.  I‘m talking about the public getting engaged and saying, we need to come home. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HALPERIN:  Look, the relationship with Karzai, with the government of Pakistan, if you were doing it on the merits of that, are they reliable American allies, this war wouldn‘t be fought. 

The problem who those would like to see a quick withdrawal and massive withdrawal of American troops is that for the people who support the war, at the Pentagon, in the Republican Party, in the neoconservative movement, they will pay any price and bear any burden to continue fighting the war.  They don‘t much care what the dollar figure is.

These Democrats in the House and some Republicans are persuaded by that.  And as “The Washington Post”‘s excellent story on this today made clear, that‘s the big issue is the cost.  That‘s what might be the tipping point. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.  That‘s all we talk about these days. 

Mark, thank you so much for joining us on HARDBALL. 

HALPERIN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Guess which 2012 Republican presidential candidate says he is into vampires.  Well, it is the same guy I thought was a fraud a minute ago.  Stick around.  He will be more of that in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL—Romney is coming up, if you can take it, but don‘t believe a word of it—only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up:  Mitt Romney lets loose.  Well, let‘s check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR:  I like silly stuff too.  I mean, I like the “Twilight” series.  I thought that was fun.  And I mean, my—

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You like vampires?

ROMNEY:  I don‘t like vampires personally.  I don‘t know any.  But my granddaughter was reading it, and I thought, well, this looks like fun. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Oh.  Again, I don‘t get it.  I don‘t know who believes him.  The kids are into it.  It is fun and silly.  He is just like you.      He reads what you read.  Is this how we connect, Mitt? 

Next up: a post-ditch pitch from Mitch.  Here is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on ABC‘s “This Week” this Sunday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK”)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, “THIS WEEK WITH CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR”:  Do you think you could have beaten President Obama? 

GOV. MITCH DANIELS ®, INDIANA:  Yes, I think so.  I mean, no one can know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Not a bad answer when you think about it.  This is a 50/50 country politically right now.  And the economy is not exactly box office yet. 

So, depending what happens here and in the world next year, he could have won, I guess.  I know this.  The White House people did say they were concerned about him.  By the way, that big Band-Aid in the middle of his forehead is from him banging his head on a door.  Or I guess he couldn‘t get out of that show.

Anyway, next up: some Twitter trouble, as we have all heard on the East Coast, for New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.  His spokesman says somebody hacked into Weiner‘s Twitter account and sent a picture of a man in his underwear to a woman out in Seattle. 

Well, Monday‘s “New York Post” headline was, “Weiner Roast.”  Congressman Weiner told Politico—quote—“The Weiner gags never get old.  I‘m sure you heard them in high school.”

No, but this is going to give those Weiner gags some legs.

And, finally, remember how Rick Santorum said recently that John McCain—quote—“doesn‘t understand how enhanced interrogation works”? 

Well, here is the former prisoner of war‘s response on FOX News yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”:  What do you think of him saying you don‘t understand enhanced interrogation?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Well, listen, I think Rick realizes he made a mistake there.  And so it‘s just—the major object here is that understand what torture does to the image of the United States in the world, but, most importantly, it‘s about us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Good for him. 

A mistake, by the way.  When you‘re in a position of unchallenged moral strength, as McCain is on this matter, it is obviously an opportunity to let a colleague off the hook, which he did to Santorum.  I think we all, even in the midst of argument over a lot of things, need to thank Senator McCain for what he did for our country.  And I do again. 

Anyway, up next:  Republicans are holding out for a hero for 2012.  A group of Iowa bigwigs—Is that what we still call them? -- is trying to get Chris Christie into the race tonight.  But what about Rudy Giuliani, Rick Perry, and Jeb Bush?  They‘re all getting the big push this week out of the sheer fear of the boring trio that is running, which is Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Romney.  God, what a trio. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Sue Herera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A solid rally to close out a pretty weak month.  The Dow Jones industrials soared 128 points, the S&P 500 gained 14, and the Nasdaq jumped 38. 

But today‘s gains not enough to erase a month of losses.  The Dow really took it on the chin in May, losing almost 2 percent.  Stocks initially got a boost today from news that Germany will allow Greece to restructure its debt to keep Athens from running out of cash in mid-July. 

Some home builders, though, rallied on a report showing home prices fell to a five-year low in March.  Investors may be thinking that the housing market has finally hit a bottom. 

And Nokia shares plunged after it slashed its sales outlook, citing lower selling prices and volumes.  Intel rallied after unveiling its sleek new Ultrabook laptop in Taiwan. 

And solar stocks surged after Germany said it planned to shut down all of its nuclear reactors by the year 2022. 

And that‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—and now back to Chris and HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Mitt Romney announces his candidacy this week, if you can hold the excitement.  And, tonight, Sarah Palin is making a stop on her bus tour, the first person ever to get off a bus and have dinner with Donald Trump in history, I think.  Anyway, the combination of the two amazes me. 

But eyes are also on Republicans who aren‘t in the race right now, but might get in, folks like Chris Christie of Jersey, and Rick Perry of Texas, and Rudy Giuliani, formerly America‘s mayor in New York, all the people the Republican Party are looking at possible Supermen to jump into this thing and run against the president. 

Could one of these outsiders be the hero who hasn‘t yet arrived?

Let‘s bring in the HARDBALL strategists.

Dead serious tonight.  I know have you attitude, but try to look at this intellectually.

Chris Christie, I want you, the Republican guy, to talk about this race.  Here he is talking to “The Des Moines Register,” who is an Iowa radio talk show with a host named Jan Mickelson.  He told “The Des Moines Register” this morning this—or this about the New Jersey governor—quote—“There is not the happy warrior feeling out there—out here. 

There is fear and trembling out here.  The reason Christie has such appeal”

this is the radio guy talking—“is that Iowa Republicans are hungry for an alpha politician who will go out and make battle.  They want a warrior candidate.”

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Yes, that‘s right.  There is a lot of anger out there.  And Chris Christie pretty effectively channels that. 

The one thing that—I have heard—in my career in politics, I have heard people say that they weren‘t going to run for president in sort of dismissively, keep the door open, half say it, about a billion times.  Chris Christie, I actually believe, because what he said is, I‘m not—at least this is what he was saying six months ago—I‘m not ready to be president.  And that‘s awfully—

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s an honest answer. 

HARRIS:  That‘s awfully hard to walk back. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me ask—let me ask you this, Steve, because it seems to me that what we are really hearing from the right out there, especially from this radio talk show guy, Mickelson, they are desperate when they look at Romney. 

This is really all about Romney.  You look at him, and nobody believes what he says. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  This manner in which he presents himself is so artificial to me, I don‘t think—when he says he is the worst president in history, he says it like he is answering, you know, a crossword puzzle.  It‘s—there is no emotion there. 

MCMAHON:  It is all about Romney.  He‘s clearly the front-runner in this case.  He has done it before.  He has got the hair.  He has got the whole thing going on.

But—and what the Republican base wants is somebody to step up and take Romney on and be able to beat him.  And right now, they look at Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and Hermanator and Ron Paul and these others -- 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who is the Herman? 

MCMAHON:  Herman Cain—

MATTHEWS:  Oh, yes.

MCMAHON: -- who is beating a lot of these people.

MATTHEWS:  I know.  He‘s up there.

MCMAHON:  And they don‘t see anybody who can step up and beat Mitt Romney.  And they‘re desperately afraid that Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee.

Now, the truth of the matter is, Mitt Romney may be the strongest nominee the Republicans can produce because the very things that may him weak in a primary make him stronger in a general election. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  And that‘s why the Republican base doesn‘t like him.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Rick Perry, because I always disliked this guy, because I don‘t like people talking about the Civil War as some kind of joke -- 600,000 people were killed in that war because of secession.  And he loves to talk about it.

Here he is on Friday talking—getting asked about running for president, Rick Perry.  I don‘t take this guy seriously as a person.  But let‘s listen.

I guess we don‘t have that SOT.  We had that.

By the way, let‘s—here is Sarah Palin talking about Rick Perry. 

Let‘s see if we have that. 

I guess we don‘t have that. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS:  Texas is a unique place.  When we came in the union in 1845, one of the issues is that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.

My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention.  We got a great union.  There‘s absolutely no reason to dissolve it but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What is he talking about, succeeding for the United States if he doesn‘t like the way things are going in Washington?  What is he talking about?

HARRIS:  I have no idea what he is talking about.

MCMAHON:  Defend him, go ahead.

HARRIS:  No, about you I will say this.  I will defend him in terms of his political skills.  Those—if—I may be wrong, but I‘m pretty sure that quote was from the earliest, earliest -- 

MATTHEWS:  April 29, 2009.

HARRIS:  When most people haven‘t heard about the Tea Party at that point.

MATTHEWS:  But he is talking seceding from the Union.

HARRIS:  Look, he would be a formidable candidate in a Republican primary.  He would be the only major Southern candidate.  I don‘t think most Southerners look at Newt and think, oh, well, he is Southern.  But Rick Perry is southern.  And as former chair of the Republican Governors Association, he has a national -- 

MATTHEWS:  I think the guy is fake.  He, by the way, would have made that statement in full context because you care about full context.  He thought it was permissible under some provision of admission of the Union, that Texas could leave the union.  No, there were some provisions would allow them to reduce—devolve into a number of states in the Union, but not do leave it.

By the way, during her bus tour, Sarah Palin brought out Rick Perry. 

Here she is talking about this.  I think it‘s her man, her candidate. 

Let‘s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  I think we need to find him.  We have a lot in common.  I really like him.  But there are so many candidates and potential candidates out there who have so much to offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ha!

MCMAHON:  A fine candidate.  He‘s a fine candidate.

MATTHEWS:  I mean, what‘s going on here?  This is a major political party.  This is the party of Lincoln.  This is the party that produced most of our presidents for the last 70 years or so.  And they are talking about these casts of characters, Rick Perry—they‘re not even running.  These are the ones they want to run.  The ones actually running are three—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Have you ever seen a weaker field than Pawlenty, Huntsman that nobody ever heard of two months ago, never heard of the guy.  Romney who everyone had a good look at and is bored to death by.

HARRIS:  Time will tell.  All I know—look, in 1992, everyone talked about the seven dwarfs on the Democratic side.  What a weak field that was.

MATTHEWS:  You know, good candidates who are running.  That‘s the big question.  Why isn‘t Thune running?

HARRIS:  Look, Thune, everyone—as soon as people take themselves out of the running, all of a sudden everyone is like, oh, they are the dream candidate.  You know, I‘m a big fan of John Thune but he was also a supporter of earmarks and if he were running, he‘d have to defend that right now.  And everyone will say oh, don‘t get—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Rudy Giuliani—now, I admit I make mistakes.  I thought Rudy—because I went to school with a lot of guys like Rudy, in high school and grade school.  I like Rudy Giuliani.  I think he was great on crime in New York.  I think he did a good job of keeping our calm during 9/11.

I know he can be a big mouth and all that, but I like him because there‘s something really attractive about him as an East Coast kind of guy.

Look at this right now—he is leading the national poll, latest CNN poll for president on the Republican side.  He, Rudy Giuliani is beating Romney, Palin, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, who you mentioned, and Newt Gingrich.

What do you make that?  He is beating them all and everyone said he was finished.

MCMAHON:  A lot of it is name ID.  And secondly

MATTHEWS:  They all have name ID.

MCMAHON:  No, no, not like him, who was on every single day during 9/11.  And, you know, people have a fun memory of Giuliani being a top alpha male—

MATTHEWS:  Romney is not a well known name.

MCMAHON:  -- which the voters in Iowa seem to want.  And, you know, he against—he ran for president last time and he said some pretty tough things about the president, and there are a lot of Republicans that want that.  But what you‘re saying is the strength of this president.  This is a president who has captured Osama bin Laden.  He‘s turned the economy around.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s about 54 percent in the polls right now.

MCMAHON:  He‘s going to raise $1 billion.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is your party going to pick anyone besides the big three I‘ve been mentioning, the exciting three I mentioned?  Is there any hope for humanity in my business?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m in an exciting Wild West show.  I love Bachmann to get in the race.  She will get in.  I think we made her here and I am rooting for her to get in.  Michele Bachmann is running for president, I believe.  And though I change on that and learn anything, I‘ll tell you.  I believe she‘s running, don‘t you?

MCMAHON:  Yes.

HARRIS:  I think she‘s running.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We have four candidates who have a real chance to win.  If she wins in Iowa, she‘s from Waterloo, Iowa.  She‘ll play that big.  I was talking to David (INAUDIBLE) from out there from Iowa.  Geography trumps everything else out there.  Midwest likes Midwest.  She is from Waterloo, Iowa.  You can‘t beat it, can you?

HARRIS:  No, I think she does—

MATTHEWS:  She comes smashing out of Iowa.  You‘ve been there.  She goes to New Hampshire, pulls a decent second or third with Romney, gets down to South Carolina.  Big question right now, who wins the rubber match?

MCMAHON:  Romney.

HARRIS:  In South Carolina or over all?

MATTHEWS:  South Carolina.

HARRIS:  I think you can‘t -- 

MATTHEWS:  Come on.

HARRIS:  It‘s going to be—I would say Romney, Pawlenty or -- 

MATTHEWS:  Michele Bachmann -

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- it‘s about guts and it‘s about belief and she‘s the real thing.  Whatever she is, she‘s real at it.  Whatever Romney is, is not what he is showing.  Romney is a moderate, centrist Republican, probably more left-leaning than they think.  He made his record building healthcare in Massachusetts and was pro-choice was up there.  It‘s the only think he‘s ever done and pro-choice and built a healthcare system, and he‘s running away from it.  That‘s not real politics.

HARRIS:  I‘m not working on him, but I continue to be bullish on Pawlenty.  I think if he can raise the money, I think he‘s got real shot.

MATTHEWS:  You have every right to be.  T-Paw!

Anyway, I think you‘re right because Romney is so bad.  They are going somewhere else.

MCMAHON:  Huntsman.  I‘m just telling you.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re playing games here.

Thank you, Steve McMahon, who‘s always been a mole here.  Anyway, Todd Harris, a real Republican, not this guy.

Up next: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—now this is smart move -

Joplin is smashed.  He told them Joplin—oh, yes, we‘ll give you some disaster aid in this emergency the Congress can find another place to cut a lot of spending to pay for it.  Is this guy out of his mind?  What happened with compassion and service?  It ain‘t working with Eric Cantor.

           

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the United States Navy will once again have an aircraft carrier named for President Kennedy.  With the president‘s daughter Caroline and her family on hand, the Navy made the announcement at the Kennedy Presidential Library over the weekend.  The prior USS John F.  Kennedy was decommissioned in 2007 and is docked in Philadelphia.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And as president, I can promise you, your country will be there with you every single step of the way.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  We will be with you every step of the way.  We‘re not going anywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Obama out in Joplin, Missouri, the scene of the disaster out there.  The same day, by the way, that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was doubling down on his demand that emergency funding for tornado victims out there should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Let‘s listen to Cantor make his case.  It‘s a hard one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER:  We see in the healing process that there is an appropriate federal role.  Congress will find the money and it will be offset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But will you insist that there is a quid pro quo, that there‘s a trade?

CANTOR:  You know, Harry, it‘s like this—if when a family is struck with tragedy, like the family in Joplin, you know, they have—let‘s say that they had, you know, $10,000 set aside to do something else with, to buy a new car, to do something else, and then they were struck with a sick member of the family or something and need to take that money to apply to that, that‘s what they would do, because families don‘t have unlimited money and really, neither does the federal government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, joining me right now is Missouri Congressman Russ Carnahan.  What do you make of that argument—that you got to find a cut somewhere to pay for this emergency?

REP. RUSS CARNAHAN (D), MISSOURI:  You know, Chris, this is like calling the fire department when your house is burning down and they have a debate about political ideology and how we are going to pay for the gas and the truck.  That‘s not what we do in this country.

Congress has emergency powers to deal with this, do it that way.  We should do what Americans do best when there‘s natural disasters, whether it‘s flooding on the Mississippi River, or tornadoes in St. Louis or Joplin, or hurricanes in the Gulf, we lend a helping hand to those who need it.  That‘s what we do.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make about this energy?  Is your sense that this weather condition we are facing right now—I mean, I don‘t think I‘ve ever seen a more horrific picture of a twister than the one going through Joplin.  Is there something going on in our weather out there that you know about in your part of the country that‘s going to be around for a while, it‘s not just a fluke?

CARNAHAN:  I sure hope not.  This has been not only—that tornado in Joplin was the worst ever that we know of, but around the country, over 500 deaths by these multiple tornadoes in the Midwest and the South, unprecedented weather events but it really requires us as a nation to pull together.  And we‘ve seen such incredible events were people have pulled together—from individuals giving, but also the president, as we heard on the program earlier, standing up in Joplin this weekend to tell people there he is going to be there, we‘re going to be there for them.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the latest word?  We just found out that your governor out there, Jay Nixon, a Democrat is saying that the federal government is going to pay 90 percent of the cleanup.  What do you make of that?  Just came out.

CARNAHAN:  It‘s another way to give a helping hand here.  This precedent has been set.  This was done down in Alabama and certainly with states and local governments struggling through these tough times—this is an extra way to have national help there in Joplin, Missouri.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s listen to your colleague, Claire McCaskill, friend of this show, talking about this Cantor move, which I find pretty ideological.  We usually put aside ideology during crises.  Let‘s look at Claire McCaskill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI:  There is no question we have to be careful about the way we spend federal money.  But with all due respect to Congressman Cantor, I have a hard time believing that if this were in his congressional district, he would be talking about how additional disaster relief would not be available unless we found some other program to take it from.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So, what would happen, you think if you stood up on the House floor.  I know some of this tornado does affect the state of Virginia on the periphery, not like it did your state, of course.  But what would you make if he had done this to you.  Would you take as a personal attack?  How would you view it?

I mean, I‘m sorry, how do you think he would view it if you had done it to him?  I should say.  He‘s already done it to you.

CARNAHAN:  Well, first of all, we shouldn‘t be playing politics with natural disasters.  There is a great time and police to have debates about our budget.  There‘s a great time and police to talk about investing money and disaster preparedness where we know a dollar invested.  We are saving $5 on the other end.  Let‘s have those debates.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

CARNAHAN:  But when people are smack down in the middle of a disaster, rebuilding, still looking for lost victims, this is no time to be saying—you know, we are going to have a debate about how we are going to pay for the gas in the fire truck.

MATTHEWS:  I think right, left and center agree with you, only Cantor disagrees.  Thank you so much, Congressman Russ Carnahan of Missouri.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with what Sarah Palin is really after.  I have given it some thought.  I think I know what‘s going on with her.  It ain‘t the presidency.  It‘s this weird new thing she‘s up to.

Stick around.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with Sarah Palin.

She made the news this weekend.  She was here in Washington, riding a motorcycle with the Rolling Thunder crowd.  Great pictures.  Great statement, too.  She‘s one of the renegades, you know, those Americans out there who think G.I.s were purposely left behind in Vietnam.

And whatever the facts, that issue still has potency with folks.  It‘s a way of saying, “Don‘t trust the government, they‘re not on your side.  They are not on the side of America.”

Sarah Palin is running—as I have been saying—not for president of the United States, not to be the country‘s chief executive.  I don‘t think she even liked the mini-sized version of that job up in Alaska.  Don‘t you remember?  She quit it.

She‘s not running for president.  She is running to lead a counter-culture of the angry, one that will be in a position within six months to tell the Republican Party candidate what he should do, whom he must pick as a running mate, what he should promise to do if elected on a whole range of things.  She will hold a power that will rival the nominee for the basic reason that she will have the power to hold back her support.

Sarah Palin will not be the nominee when the Republicans meet in September, down in Tampa in 2012.  But she will be there and what she says will carry real power over the GOP presidential candidate—what he says and what he does.

Don‘t underestimate Sarah Palin.  She may have as much power not running as the guy who gets the nomination.  If it‘s not a Tea Partier, if it‘s someone like Mitt Romney or Pawlenty, she‘ll tell him to pick Rick Perry of Texas as his running mate.  She will just do it.  You watch.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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