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updated 6/20/2011 3:34:57 PM ET 2011-06-20T19:34:57

Guests: Howard Fineman, Julia Boorstin, John Harris, Joe Klein, Clarence Page, Steve Kornacki, Michelle Goldberg, Elaine Sciolino

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Morning after.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

I‘m here to do the Bill Maher show tonight.  But leading off tonight here: Notes on a scandal.  Weiner goes down in flames, David Vitter in Louisiana gets reelected easily, and the shirtless Chris Lee gone in a day. 

Well, tonight, we close the book on the Weiner scandal by trying—trying

to answer the question, why are some politicians consumed by sex scandals while others slip past them?

Also: That doesn‘t take long, did it.  Listen to Newt Gingrich here trying to revive his broken campaign, desperate campaign with this wild, terrible assault on the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is the core of my argument with Barack Obama.  He is a natural secular European socialist.  He believes in big government.  He believes in centralized power.  He believes he, as a politician, knows more than we do and he should help us redesign our lives by letting him and his bureaucrats (INAUDIBLE) for us.  It is the opposite of freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  The face of evil.  Anyway, the opposite of freedom.  What is Newt Gingrich talking about?  He‘s joining the pitchfork crowd, or trying to pretend to be, in their fight with the establishment Republicans.  I don‘t believe a word of it.

Plus: Left out.  Progressive activists are out complaining that the president has lost their support, but our netroots nation panel might be off base.  They say what to do when the president is just not that into you?  OK, guys, and ladies, fact check.  Our new NBC poll shows that the left of center in this country is solid for President Obama.

And wait until you see Chris Christie‘s biting response to someone who wondered why the governor of New Jersey—him—sends his kids to private Catholic school.  You don‘t hear this from guys who are actually running for president.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with real trouble I see ahead for the Democratic Party if they fail to address the gender imbalance at the very top of our government.

We start with the Weiner scandal.  MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman is the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director, and John Harris is editor-in-chief of Politico.

Let me go to John on this because I think you‘ve got theories here, and I want Howard to be our checker, which he will be very good at here, on the facts and the politics.  Reason one you say why Weiner failed.  His resignation was inevitable.  Why?  You say, first of all, the photos.  Talk about it.  Why did this bring him down, rather than all the other scandals that are based on word of mouth?

JOHN HARRIS, POLITICO:  Well, Chris, the question that drove that piece that I wrote on today‘s Politico was really raising why it wasn‘t inevitable, not necessarily endorsing that it was, because some people think this wasn‘t inevitable.  If Weiner had handled himself better and more professionally, if he had gotten some outside advice instead of being his own adviser and having a fool for a client, that perhaps he could have survived this.

I mean, let‘s face it, David Vitter was linked to a prostitution scandal.  Weiner was in a sex scandal with no actual sex.  It was his mishandling of this.  But the fact is, it was a hot (ph) candle (ph) --

MATTHEWS:  Is that Louisiana?  Let me be blunt here.  Is that Louisiana, where they sometimes in the past have thought politics was entertainment?  They have Edwin Edwards—

HARRIS:  I do think—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean—

HARRIS:  -- that geography—I do think that geography matters. 

Having a scandal in New Orleans is different than having it in Salt Lake.  On the other hand, Weiner had that as an advantage.  He comes from a liberal and culturally tolerant New York district.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HARRIS:  But I do think it became impossible for him to survive in part because of those photos.  We‘ve had plenty of sex scandals before, but we haven‘t had many that have had such graphic images, and it guaranteed that this was going to be an ongoing obsession.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Howard—

HARRIS:  And it raised the—kind of the “yuck” factor.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Howard, that‘s exactly right, I think.  I mean, rarely—you know, sex is generally between two people in private, you know, in some room somewhere.  But this wasn‘t sex, A.  And B, what it was, was a transmission of pictures and images that everybody in the country had access to, as much as if they were that person he was sending it to.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.  And in the interest of fact-checking, let me just say that the 9th district of New York is not so culturally tolerant as, you know, to look the other way when pictures like this are being sent by their congressman.

HARRIS:  Right, but the polls, Howard, were—suggested that—

FINEMAN:  This is Forest Hills—

HARRIS:  -- he was—could have—might have won reelection.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  But Forest Hills and some of these other neighborhoods are strong middle class neighborhoods of fairly traditional people, for the most part.  And—

HARRIS:  Right.  But Howard, it wasn‘t his constituents that pushed him out, it was the—

FINEMAN:  Yes.

HARRIS:  It was his fellow Democratic colleagues in the House.  The constituents weren‘t clamoring for him to go.

FINEMAN:  Well—

HARRIS:  Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer—

FINEMAN:  Yes, but—

HARRIS:  -- they were clamoring for him to go.

FINEMAN:  I think that‘s true, but I also think—you know, there‘s New York and then there‘s New York.  That‘s my only point on that.

HARRIS:  Right.

FINEMAN:  And in terms—in terms of the pictures, yes, absolutely.  The pictures are something you couldn‘t turn away from, which was—and they are horribly transfixing, which is what—which is what hurt Weiner here in terms of the way they were communicated.  I mean, you press the wrong button these days, and people who you think are your friends—you know, the kind of friends that you have in the world of the Internet are not really your friends.

MATTHEWS:  No, they‘re not.

FINEMAN:  If he‘d made that kind of mistake personally, in the old-fashioned friendship, somebody might have put it in the drawer.  But here, these are very low-grade friends that you have, and as soon as you put it out there, they‘re not your friends anymore.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the very reason I want to get to right next, which is not only are these pictures out there, but the friends were not out there.  You point out, John Harris, in your piece in Politico that had he no allies.  And I noticed the only people that spoke up for him, even in print, were people like Bob Brady of Philadelphia and Mike Capuano of Massachusetts, and I believe John Conyers from Michigan.

But they didn‘t even go out.  They weren‘t really out there to show off their strength for this guy, either.  They weren‘t there on television.  I didn‘t see them.

HARRIS:  You need both personal allies, people saying, Back off, give this guy space—he didn‘t have—he had a few of those, but he did not have many.  And then you also need political allies.  You need a block of support.

In 1998, when Bill Clinton got in trouble with a sex scandal, he had a core constituency of Democratic activists led by African-Americans who said, Do not abandon this man.  So even though there might have been some people in his party that were ready to throw Bill Clinton overboard, it wasn‘t an option because the core of the party was with him.

That was not the case with Anthony Weiner.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s true with Charlie Rangel—

HARRIS:  He didn‘t have a lot of personal friends.

MATTHEWS:  -- of New York.

HARRIS:  He didn‘t have political friends.

MATTHEWS:  Charlie Rangel is enormously popular.  I mean, I like him.  I‘m a friend of his.  And there‘s a lot of people that said, Look at this guy‘s record compared to this.  Look at the balance sheet—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  Anthony Weiner tried to take short cuts to power, and it left him with none.  He was known more as a show horse than a workhorse in the House.  He made Chuck Schumer look reticent—

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  -- in terms of—in terms of his eagerness to go on TV as a way to become famous but not really powerful.  So when the mechanics of fame turned on him, they left him with no allies because—it‘s not just that he didn‘t have any friends and clout through the traditional system of alliances or blocs or—voting blocs, it‘s that he was widely resented, and to some extent, found to be irritating by all—most of the other people in the Democratic Party.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think—Howard, would you explain that?  Because you know politics better than a lot of reporters, which is not just the facts but the context.

FINEMAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I didn‘t know this, but I learned it the hard way, that people in politics don‘t like it when some member of Congress is always on television.  They don‘t like it.

FINEMAN:  No, they don‘t.  And it‘s one thing if you get to that position through your work for others, as well as yourself.  It‘s not just expanding your own Twitter ranks and your own Facebook page and your own prominence on television and your own fund-raising prowess, it‘s your willingness to work in the House and work on the committees and help other people raise money and do all that other kind of thing.  And he wasn‘t—he wasn‘t widely regarded as somebody who wanted to do any of that.

Now, he was a great arguer.  And you know, I don‘t—I also don‘t think a lot of people loved the fact that he was on Fox a lot.  You know, he would say he went on Fox to fight the fight, and you know, make the battle and join the—against the conservatives, but he was also looking for oddballs to be in front of and giving credibility to a network that a lot of the hard-core Democrats in the House don‘t like.

MATTHEWS:  I believe that‘s where he could probably end up in the next few months, by the way.  If Spitzer found a home at CNN, I think he may well find his home with Roger Ailes.  Just speculating here.  I don‘t know anything about it.  But I think it‘s the kind of liberal that I think Roger would love to get out there and say, Here‘s the guy with the dunce cap on.  But he has to wear the dunce cap, you know what I mean, guys?  John Harris, do you think that‘s too wiseass to think like that?

HARRIS:  Well, I think on Fox, they‘re looking for something like the Washington Generals, who lose every time to the Harlem Globetrotters.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  Yes, and that‘s not Weiner.

MATTHEWS:  They lose to the Globetrotters!

FINEMAN:  That‘s not Weiner.  That‘s—

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s go to the third—go to the third reason here, serious reason here.  We‘re back to seriousness.  Bad advice.  You argue, John, and I‘m sure Howard is right, when you listen to Anthony Weiner for advice, you‘re the wrong guy to go to.

HARRIS:  Look, anybody who gets in trouble like this, even somebody like Weiner—he probably said, Hey, look, I know how to work the media, I can handle this.  Always a mistake.  If you‘re a politician in trouble, you have to get a core group of people around you, and then listen to them.  Often, their advice is going to be, Shut up, the exact opposite of what Anthony did.  He talked and talked and talked, and everything he said for the first several days of the scandal was a lie.  He lied and lied and lied, and it just—it drastically compounded his problems.

Whether this scandal could have been survivable with better advice, we don‘t know.  But he guaranteed—every step he made basically compounded his difficulties and made it—

FINEMAN:  Yes, I think—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I would only—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- disagree with you.  I want to challenge you.  Maybe Howard will join me.  I think this one alone was enough to kill him.  I think what he did, although it didn‘t probably hurt anybody—we‘ll discuss that over time, if it did, we find out it did—but it hurt his family, obviously, his marriage.  But it seems me that the photos, once they were known to exist, even if he‘d gone out and done a complete mea culpa immediately on his own initiative, do you think—you first, quickly, John, and then Howard.  Would you think that would have been enough to get him off, even if he didn‘t have these other facts?  Wouldn‘t that have just killed him right there, no matter what happened, if it was friends or whatever—

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  If he had said at the beginning, I‘ve made a mistake, I apologize, and then said nothing more, there‘s a possibility that sort of the pack would have moved on.  The thing about these scandals is they burn hot, but they usually burn quickly.  So it‘s possible.  But we won‘t really know.  And he was—

MATTHEWS:  Did Andrew Breitbart—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Howard, would Andrew Breitbart have pulled back?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- pulled back?

FINEMAN:  Well, first of all—

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN:  First of all—first of all, John‘s right.  I mean, this is a textbook—this—what Anthony Weiner did here should be preserved as a textbook case for any public figure of what not to do all the way along.  As John said, to talk too much, to lie, to blame others, to make it political, to not put all the facts onto the table first, to treat yourself as a victim and not the perpetrator, to be so blind all the way along and so wrong is really stunning.

I do think that if he had said at the very beginning, Look, I literally exposed myself here, I have a weakness and a sickness, you‘re going to see other things now—he would have had to have said, You‘re going to see other things.  Here‘s what I know is out there.  I‘ll tell you everything I know.  I‘m immediately going to seek help.  I talked about this with my wife before.  We‘ve known it‘s a problem.  I‘m going to go away—maybe, maybe, maybe he could have survived it.

But you know, you‘re never going to know.  And I agree with you, Chris, the pictures themselves—you know, the phrase in the law—oh, I won‘t even mention it.  But there‘s a phrase that says, the thing speaks for itself, and that makes the case.  And that was true here.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘ve all had our high school moments for the last two weeks, and it‘s reminded me more than anything I‘ve covered of a high school discussion, with the double entendres and the peek-a-boo aspect of this whole thing.  We‘re moving back to debt ceiling now, guys.  Join me in the fight!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Howard Fineman, John Harris.

Coming up—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  But as St. Augustine said, not right away in this next segment.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Newt Gingrich is out of the game.  He called President Obama a “natural, secular, European socialist.”  Newt‘s got his pitchfork out.  But can the wild crowd on the right really buy him?  And who‘s going to get control of the Republican Party as it fights between the pitchforks and the country club?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  President Obama‘s golf summit with House Speaker John Boehner will tee off this weekend.  The president, the vice president, the speaker and Ohio governor John Kasich are set to play tomorrow, Saturday.  And while no one expects a budget deal to come at the end of the 18 holes, White House press secretary Jay Carney says the broader purpose is to spend some time together and help improve the chances of bipartisan cooperation.  We‘ll see.  Can‘t hurt, I guess.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  For a while now, I‘ve said that the fight for Republican nomination—and I am not alone—will be a fight between the Eastern conference, the buttoned-down, business-minded establishment types, and the Western conference, the culturally conservative, libertarian-friendly, open-range pioneer types.

Well, now “Time” magazine‘s Joe Klein is saying something very similar, if not better.  It‘s on the cover of the newest edition of “Time.”  He says it‘s the insiders versus the outsiders, the New Hampshire bracket, he calls it—you‘re seeing the brackets there—versus the Iowa bracket, which is the culturally conservative sort of Michele Bachmann wing.

We‘re also joined by syndicated columnist Clarence Page, who‘s a member of “The Chicago Tribune‘s” editorial board.  Gentlemen, thank you.

Let me ask you to start off the (INAUDIBLE) this whole fight—who‘s going to win that fight, first of all?  Just to get the ball—ball—will the pitchforks win, as you call them, or will the country club win, Joe Klein?

JOE KLEIN, “TIME”:  Well, I think that for the first time, we really don‘t know who‘s going to win.  You know, the Tea Party made a major run at control of the Republican Party in 2010, and the fact is that they are stronger than they‘ve been before.  In the past, you could always kind of think that, you know, the establishment next in line candidate was going to win.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KLEIN:  I mean, John McCain—nobody liked John McCain in the Republican Party, but he was the next in line.  And I think that that was kind of the dying gasp of that sort of, you know, way of going about business.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

KLEIN:  Mitt Romney is going to have to be really good to win this.

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s a good thought.  Clarence, where are you on this?  Will the pitchforks—I‘m sort of leaning to Bachmann because I think passion always ends up beating sort of, Gee whiz, do we have to do it?

CLARENCE PAGE, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE” COLUMNIST:  Well, yes, and Michele Bachmann made a better than expected showing at that New Hampshire debate.  That‘s very important.  Expectations for her weren‘t that high.  People remember her looking at the wrong camera during her address primarily to the Tea Party folks and all.  But she did everything right on this evening.

And I think using that bracket analogy, she has surged to the lead as far as the conservative base is concerned, which, actually, I think is good news for Romney because it kind of narrows things down.  If it‘s a Bachmann versus Romney race, my earlier predictions, Chris, that Romney was going to pull it out in the end I think can come true.

KLEIN:  Romney‘s got other problems, though, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s go to the first one.  This—yesterday in Tampa—Joe, let‘s take a look at this, and Clarence—trying to joke about the unemployed.  This shows the kind of trivialization that the elite can easily be accused of, the sort of the St. Paul‘s crowd.  Listen to—he didn‘t go to St. Paul‘s, but this kind of mentality.  Let‘s listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, maybe I should also tell my story.  I‘m also unemployed.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you on LinkedIn?

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY:  Yes, actually.  And I‘m networking!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s kind of sporty of him, but you know—sporting, I should say, Klein—Joe—but it just seems to strikes me as that kind of trivialization of the sweat and reality of life in America for a lot of people.  It‘s exactly the wrong note for a country clubber.

KLEIN:  It kind of reminds me of the time that George W. Bush was looking under the furniture in the Oval Office for weapons of mass destruction.  That wasn‘t very funny to the people in uniform.

And it comes during a week when Romney had taken advantage of a similar mistake that Barack Obama made, when Obama said that the latest unemployment numbers were a bump in the road.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s watch that.  Let‘s watch that right now.  Good point.  Here it is.  Here is Romney‘s video, Web site, attacking President Obama on the economy for, as you say, using the wrong words. 

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m an American. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not a bump in the road. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s pretty severe, Clarence, but I guess it‘s politics.  And here you go. 

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, “TIME”:  Pretty effective. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s talking.  He‘s go after him.  Effective.

But there you go, and you make a joke about the very thing your TV commercial has made a big deal about, trivial language on a serious event. 

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  And especially on a key issue for Obama. 

Now, if the economy and the recovery don‘t speed up, and people aren‘t feeling it at election time next year, that‘s Obama‘s biggest problem ahead that we can see from this point, and so Romney understandably is taking full advantage of it. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at the latest polling here.  This is our NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll. 

Joe, this is when Republicans voters have to pick among the people who are actually running now.  You‘re looking at the big chart.  Romney is way ahead at 43, with Paul at 11.  He will probably hold that throughout.  He won‘t matter, but he will hold it.  Michele Bachmann will gain.  Santorum will drop even further.  Gingrich is going nowhere.  Pawlenty, I don‘t know what‘s his problem. 

Is it the challenge to anybody that wants to beat Romney, they have got to gather up all the anti-Romney votes fairly soon, before Romney grabs it, Joe? 

KLEIN:  I don‘t think it has to be fairly soon.  And I think that this is—since the Republican Party is really changing in its nature, this may turn out to be like a Democratic race, where someone just pops at the end. 

We haven‘t mentioned Jon Huntsman here, because he‘s going to run to Romney—to the center of Romney in New Hampshire, not in Iowa, in a state where 40 percent of the voters are independents.  And a lot of them are kind of Democratic-leaning, and they may want to play in the Republican primary this time because they don‘t have one on the Democratic side. 

There is a long way to go here.  And they haven‘t really started to paint up Romney yet on—on his health care plan or on other things. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Here—we got to jump ahead to the truly despicable here.  Here is Newt Gingrich yesterday in New Orleans making the case that President Obama is the enemy of freedom.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is the core of my argument with Barack Obama.  He is a natural secular European socialist. 

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH:  He believes in big government.  He believes in centralized power.  He believes he, as a politician, knows more than we do and he should help us redesign our lives by letting him and his bureaucrats live it for us.  It‘s the opposite of freedom. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Oh, the opposite of truth. 

You know, Clarence, first of all, he went to the wrong black church. 

Then he was a Muslim.  Now he‘s a socialist of a secular tradition. 

Now, how many slurs can they slam at a guy that are all inconsistent?

PAGE:  Well, as far as Gingrich is concerned, he‘s coming off a series of gaffes, setbacks.  He‘s still rallying his base inside of the party.  And his default position is to be a name-caller.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know any—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you know a single Newt Gingrich voter?  Do you know—give me the name—Clarence, you can report this—of a single Newt Gingrich “I want this guy to be president” voter. 

KLEIN:  Callista.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)  

PAGE:  Oh, OK. 

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN:  But, Chris—

PAGE:  No, go ahead. 

KLEIN: -- Newt Gingrich is the sort of guy for whom life begins anew every day.

Just three or four days ago, he was out there defending Medicare as being, you know, if the American people think it‘s good, it may be a good program. 

Medicare is about the most socialist program we have.  So, does that make Newt a socialist, too? 

MATTHEWS:  So, he annuls yesterday, with each morning gone, right, Joe?

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Annulment comes with the dawn.

KLEIN:  Right. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at Michele—

KLEIN:  I love it when you do that, Chris. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s look at Michele Bachmann late today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This president has failed the Hispanic community.  He has failed the African-American community.  He has failed us all when it comes to jobs.  As president of the United States, my goal will be job creation in the Hispanic community, job creation in the African-American community, job creation for all Americans, and turning this economy around.

And we will. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there she is going for the conditions vote, Clarence, not for the ideology.  But I think she is running on ideology.  She would be saying the same thing if we had a 3 percent unemployment rate. 

PAGE:  Well, sure.  What candidate today doesn‘t promise to generate jobs and generate economic prosperity?  How is she going to do it?  That‘s the real question. 

And, for that matter, that‘s Obama strength at this point on that weak issue of the economy, that the Republicans haven‘t come up with a very strong position—

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I know.

PAGE: -- that is different than their past positions, which is cut taxes, and—well, especially taxes on the upper incomes, and cut programs that help people who don‘t have jobs. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

W., that genius, cut taxes when had he had a 3.7 percent unemployment rate.  So, they love to do it.  It‘s got nothing to do with the jobless rate. 

Joe, great coverage on “TIME,” great cover story. 

KLEIN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Clarence, as always.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.  Have a nice weekend. 

PAGE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming up: why asking New Jersey‘s Chris Christie—well, somebody did—why his kids go to private Catholic school could endanger your health.  This guy is not running for president, at least not in the normal way, because he gives tough answers to people who dare to question him. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Back to HARDBALL.  Now to the “Sideshow.” 

First off: Chris Christie unplugged.  Wait until you see this.  Watch what happen when the Jersey governor took viewer questions last night on PBS. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You don‘t send your children to public schools.  You send them to private schools.  So, I was wondering why you think it‘s fair to be cutting school funding to public schools. 

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ®, NEW JERSEY:  What‘s her name? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gail (ph).  Talk to Gail.

CHRISTIE:  Hey, Gail, you know what?  First off, it‘s none of your business.  I don‘t ask you where you send your kids to school.  Don‘t bother me about where I send mine. 

Secondly, I pay $38,000 a year in property taxes for a public school system predominantly in Mendham that my wife and I don‘t choose to utilize, because we believe, we have decided, as parents, that we believe a religious education should be part of our children‘s everyday education.  So, we send our children to parochial school. 

Third, I, as governor, am responsible for every child in this state, not just my own.  And the decisions that I make are to try to improve the education—educational opportunities of every child in this state.

So, with all due respect, Gail, it‘s none of your business. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think I would have answered it that way if I were a politician, or anybody.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, it sounds wrong, but there you saw something the 2012 Republican field could use, and doesn‘t have: bite.

Speaking of parenting, President Obama had a Father‘s Day-themed message today on “Good Morning America.”  Warm and fuzzy, it was not. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)

OBAMA:  I‘m not anticipating complete mayhem for the next four or five years, but I understand teenagehood is complicated. 

I should also point out that I have men with guns surround them often.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  And a great incentive for running for reelection is that it means they never get in a car with a boy who had a beer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there you have a great father defending his beautiful young daughters heading into teenage life. 

And I just love the Robert De Niro homage in the way he talked:  Don‘t mess with my daughters. 

Now the “Big Number.”  According to the odds maker on Intrade.com over in Dublin, Mitt Romney has the highest chance of winning the Republican nomination, with 33 percent.  Who is in second place?  Here‘s a—here‘s an interesting Irish bet—Rick Perry from Texas, 14 percent, shooting up on Intrade.com.  He‘s ahead of both Pawlenty and Huntsman.

Rick Perry at 14 percent—tonight‘s dark horse “Big Number.” 

Up next:  Liberals and progressives loved Barack Obama when he won the election back in 2008.  Most of them did.  But will they still love him tomorrow?  Well, some maybe never will love anybody. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks struggling to another mixed close, the Dow Jones industrials gaining 42 points, the S&P 500 adding three, but the Nasdaq gave up seven points.  Today‘s gains were just enough to give the Dow and the S&P their first positive week since April. 

Investors were feeling a little bit better about the Greek debt crisis after France and Germany got behind a new aid package that asks the private sector to pitch in on a voluntary basis.  Chipmakers were weaker across the board on deteriorating outlooks from the top two South Korean firms, Samsung and Hynix.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion shares also dragging on the Nasdaq, in the wake of that disappointing earnings report posted after last night‘s closing bell. 

And Capital One Financial came out on top with a bidding war with GE Capital and CIT Group for ING‘s online banking business.  They will snap that up for a cool $9 billion in cash and stocks. 

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to

HARDBALL. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  This president has been the most progressive president on these issues we have ever had.  He has—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, that‘s pretty a low bar, though. 

PFEIFFER:  But what I can promise you is that, if someone else is president, all the other things I talked about are all going to go away. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was White House Communications Chief Dan Pfeiffer defending the president this morning at the Netroots Nation‘s conference.  The president has been criticized by progressives, some, for not pushing hard enough on gay marriage and immigration reform. 

So, do the netroots have a point or are they asking for too much?  A great topic.  It‘s going to continue for months. 

Here with us to start that discussion, The Daily Beast‘s Michelle Goldberg—thank you, Michelle Goldberg—and Salon.com‘s Steve Kornacki.

Welcome back, Steve. 

Let‘s go to this—this whole question of the issue of the gay rights issue. 

Michelle, I do know the president was very good on don‘t ask, don‘t tell.  It‘s gone.  It‘s off the books.  It‘s great it‘s gone.  DOMA, he‘s saying, stop enforcing it, it‘s unconstitutional.  That‘s a shift from the campaign.  And he always was a civil unions guy and always said, I‘m not ready for being—for a marriage guy yet. 

So hasn‘t he sort of at least been as good or much better, in fact, than what he was as a candidate?  Your thoughts on the issue of marriage and gay rights? 

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST:  He has been, I mean, by far, the best president on gay rights in the history of the country.

And he has—you‘re right—fulfilled his major—or, actually, all of his campaign promises and gone above and beyond that.  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GOLDBERG: -- to me, it‘s the job of activists to ask for too much.  And it‘s the job of them to push him further than he might be inclined to go. 

But I think it‘s really unfair to criticize him for not pushing harder on gay marriage, when he‘s actually gone further on gay marriage than he said he would during the campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  Steve, I want to get to that before we move on.

And I think that the fair thing is always to hold a person, male, female, left or right or center, to what they promised to do.  They must try to do, it seems to be, what they say they will do with any emphasis. 

STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM:  Yes, no, I mean, I agree. 

And, look, the job of a president, you have always got to keep in mind he‘s managing a coalition right now.  He‘s a Democrat.  He has lots of Democratic allies.  But the Democratic coalition itself is a very wide, broad thing.  Gay rights is a part of it.  I think it‘s a pretty important part of it, but it‘s just part of it. 

So he can‘t be 24/7, 365 pushing just for sort of a gay rights agenda.  And when you look at it sort of in totality, you‘re right, there are actual, real accomplishments there, when you talk about like ending don‘t ask, don‘t tell. 

And the other thing I think you have to keep in mind is just how much the culture in the country has changed while he‘s been president.  We‘re on the verge of seeing the state I‘m sitting in right now, New York State, legalize gay marriage.  That could happen any day now.  This is happening.

MATTHEWS:  Who would have believed that 10 years ago?

KORNACKI:  Yes.  I mean, this is happening.  You look at the polls, every time you take a new poll, that number is creeping up. 

And it‘s not going to happen overnight, but I think it may not be Obama, but at some point in the future, there probably will be a Democratic president or maybe a Republican president who is in office when gay marriage is the norm. 

MATTHEWS:  Proof of that is I think the Republicans have shut up on DADT, most of them.  They are not trying to go backwards on that. 

Let‘s take a look at this.  Here‘s Lieutenant Dan Choi.  I know him.  He‘s an American patriot expressing frustration with an Obama campaign worker yesterday at the Netroots Nation conference. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not for marriage equality? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t, not—as—

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK. 

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you not understand?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe that I‘m an equal citizen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I understand that, but Obama has not officially gone on record for—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, then don‘t try to tell me that I‘m a bad person.  Go tell him that he should believe in my full equality, and then report back. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the issue.

And let‘s go—let‘s go on, because I remember being on this—just to make people feel a little better on the progressive side of this marriage issue, I was with Barney Frank and the Human Rights Campaign about maybe 10 years ago.

And he was saying—and there‘s a guy who has lived a life, a public

life, and also being a gay man right out front, who had said at that thing

and I will never forget him—he says, don‘t lose heart.  Things are changing.  He was saying it to a bunch of young people who are gay.

And I will tell you, things have changed dramatically in my lifetime. 

Let‘s take a look at this immigration issue.  It‘s very problematic. 

Michelle, again, thanks for joining us.  Take some time.

What is it that the people on the left, if you will, the netroots people, really want that the president hasn‘t done? 

GOLDBERG:  Well, they have a really legitimate complaint, I think, that deportations under Obama are as rapid, if not more rapid, than they were under Bush.  That‘s a legitimate complaint.

The complaint that Obama didn‘t do anything to pass the DREAM Act

seems to me, again, both unfair and a kind of vastly—a lot of these

complaints seem to me, they are vastly underestimate Obama‘s room for

maneuver and to kind of assume that if he could do a lot of these things,

you know, if he could pass the public option, if he could, you know, pass -

           

MATTHEWS:  But where do they get the idea that the president—where do they get the idea—I know that some of them are new to politics but not all of them.  Where do they get the idea that you can be a dictator if you‘re president of the United States?

GOLDBERG:  I don‘t know.  Probably from George Bush.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, certainly, they did some fast numbers.

Here‘s President Obama, by the way, Steve, here he is back in December on the DREAM Act and, generally, immigration reform.  Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act.  I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done.  It is the right thing to do.

So, I‘m going to go back at it and engage in Republicans who I think some of them in their heart of hearts know that it‘s the right thing to do.  But they think politics is tough for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Steve, there‘s few issues as frustrating to me as this one.  Why a country—this country especially—cannot deal with coming out with a progressive legislation that they intend to enforce?  Do the right thing, put it on the books and enforce it.  Just get to there and nobody on left, right, or center seems to want to do that.

I‘m with any criticism on this one.

KORNACKI:  Well, you know, but I think what you just saw there, you know, in the message Obama delivered, the way he delivered it, I think most progressive, most progressive voters, not necessarily, you know, the activists that you might be seeing at the convention right now, get that.  And they feel what he‘s saying and they believe it.  They believe he genuinely wants it and believe he has not been able to get it through Congress because a number of people in Congress, basically in the United States Senate, have said that it‘s not going to happen.

And, you know, if the climate were a little different, if the numbers were there, he would do it.  And I think this has been a consistent sort of strain that we‘ve seen for two and a half years he‘s been president, where they‘d been a lot of these moments where I think we‘ve heard from some progressive activists, vocal progressive activists, that this is the moment when Barack Obama loses the base.

That was, if there‘s no going to be a public option in health care, he‘s going to lose the base.  He‘s going to give in on the Bush tax cuts, oh, he‘s going to lose the base.  He‘s not going to fight for the DREAM Act, oh, he‘s going to lose the base.

If you look at his polls, among the actual Democratic voters right now, he‘s in very good shape.  He has not lost the base at any point in his presidency.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think there‘s a lot more smarts on the left.

And let me go back to you, Michelle.  You‘re new to this show.  Give us a minute or two here.  I just want to take a look at by the way how both of these groups, gays and Latinos, actually voted in the 2008.  Gays overwhelmingly, no surprise, 70 to 27 support to the president.  Latinos, about the same, 67-31.

Boy, these are different groups, obviously, and different views.

It seems to me that this comment that was made at the beginning of this discussion, that we heard on tape, somebody said he‘s the most progressive president in the history and somebody said that woman said, “Well, that‘s a low bar.”

Well, what bar would you apply if not American history?  Michelle?  Is there another standard?

GOLDBERG:  No.  Of course, there can‘t be another standard.  And so, again, I also do think that—I want to go back and say, it‘s not the job of activists to say that we‘re satisfied.  And it‘s not their job to kind of make excuses for failures on issues that they care about.  I don‘t necessarily think that their demands or criticisms are reasonable, but I think that‘s their role, is to push things further.

And so to say, OK, we‘re happy enough because this president has accomplished more on the progressive agenda, certainly than any president, you know, since LBJ, and on issues like gay rights, far and away more than any president that we have ever seen—you know, part of the trick here, I think, and something that the left has wrestled with throughout this presidency is how to be, on the one hand, constructive and on the other hand to keep pushing, you know, because—

MATTHEWS:  Exactly.  You‘re a very good guest, thank you.  You‘re new to this.  I‘m not at all being condescending.

Let me tell you, I love somebody who understands the passions of people and try to explain them in a smart way.  Thank you so much.

Steve, as always, same way.  Thank you, Steve Kornacki.  Thank you, Michelle Goldberg.

GOLDBERG:  Thanks a lot.

MATTHEWS:  This is always going to be an issue on the left.  And, by the way, I‘ve learned so much from the left.  I have moved left on many issues, not all, because I‘ve listened to them and they usually have a pretty good point on a lot of issues.  They could be degrading but that doesn‘t mean they are not telling the truth.

Up next: There‘s obviously a lot of outrage in this country over the former head of the IMF.  There ought to be.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who‘s accused of attempting to rape a hotel maid.  Why is the reaction in France a tad difference?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Here‘s the news—just three days after being released from the hospital down in Houston, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is heading home to Tucson this weekend.  Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, the astronaut, are traveling to Arizona tonight, to spend the Father‘s Day weekend with her family.

Kelly says he and Giffords have been dreaming of this trip for a long time and that she misses Tucson very much.  No public appearances are planned.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back.

As the Anthony Weiner story has reminded, sex scandals in politics are

nothing.  But do Americans hold their politicians to a different standard

than the rest of the world?  Well, considering how France reacted initially

to the former IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, currently under house

arrest, facing charges for attempted rape of a maid in New York

Elaine Sciolino is a long time Paris reporter for “The New York Times” and author of a great new book, “La Seduction.”

Thank you very much.

We‘ll talk about seduction in a minute, Elaine.  You‘re so nice to come on while you‘re here.

But let‘s talk about crime here.  Do the French look upon this case on the facts where we Americans basically think this guy is bad, we think he‘s a criminal, guilty of a felony, most people do, for having raped this working woman in his hotel room, after meeting her in two seconds?  Do the French harbor a different belief of that, allegedly?

ELAINE SCIOLINO, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Look, the French know a crime is a crime and there were different views from the beginning.  In the beginning, there was disbelief, how could Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was leading in the polls, who could have been a contender, who could have actually won the presidential election—how could he have been so stupid as to have committed this kind of crime?

What happened afterwards was, all of a sudden, oh, my gosh, rage and anger by the French when they saw the perp walk.  They saw Dominique Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs.  They saw him unshaven and no tie in a New York courtroom.

And now, things have settled down and there‘s a real debate and conversation going on about what does sexual harassment mean, what are the limits of power, what‘s the abuse of power and what is criminal behavior.

MATTHEWS:  Well, sexual harassment is bad, rape or attempted rape as in the past been treated in our country as a capital crime.  Certainly rape was years ago.

And my question is, do they think there‘s a gray area here between rape and not rape?  Or do they—what do they—how do they—we don‘t think this is a gray area any more, I mean, in this country.  Do they?

SCIOLINO:  The United States is way ahead of France when it comes to this issue, of both sexual criminality, sexual abuse, incest.  For example, there are probably 75,000 women raped every year.  Only 10 percent report it because they are either afraid or because they feel they won‘t get justice.

MATTHEWS:  Who is the woman who is the daughter of someone very prominent, a reporter where he—she has come out since this charge saying that she was a victim of an attempted rape by him?

SCIOLINO:  She is a young French woman who is the daughter of a socialist party official.  And she was trying to interview Strauss-Kahn and he allegedly tried to take off her clothes.  And the problem was that when she raised the issue and came out, she did it on a reality television show with lots of candles and wine and clinking of glasses.  And there was some ambiguity at the time about just how serious it was.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think I missed the point.

Let me ask you about the thing we‘ve been talking here, like high school kids almost for two weeks, the Weiner case, with all the jokes about his name and everything else and he‘s absurdly ridiculous defense, which was lying for a long time.

Do you think if the French confronted of the exact same thing, of the deputy, somewhere in the French parliament of the assembly, same thing, same circumstances, same facts, what would happen?

SCIOLINO:  Well, we have to break it down, because the French expect their politicians to lie.  It goes with the territory.

(LAUGHTER)

SCIOLINO:  Lying is not regarded with the same gravity in France as it is in the United States.  It‘s just the way it is.  It goes back to the tradition of the kings and the right to keep your private life private.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SCIOLINO:  But there are—there still are changes in the sense that there was a sub minister in the French government who, after the Strauss-Kahn scandal, was charged criminally by two women putting the moves on them, in that he was a foot fetishist.  And so, he subjected them to foot massage and a little bit more.  And he—

MATTHEWS:  We have one of those here.  Dick Morris, I think, the ill-bred, we had that problem here.

I just have to tell you, Norman Mailer educated me to this, years ago.  The great author said that the French, we Americans like to be thought of as honest men.  It‘s our great—and, by the way, I think it is true about American men, in many ways, not this kind of character.

And the Frenchmen like to be known as the guy who has it all together.  He‘s got his wife, he‘s got his apartment, he has his place in the south of France, he has a girlfriend and his nice cars.  Everything is organized.

That‘s a French great man, is that right?

SCIOLINO:  Well, there was—there was French president, President Mitterrand, who had his wife in Elysee Palace and had his second—his mistress, but really a second wife, and their daughter, in an apartment that was paid for at government expense and was under round-the-clock security of government expense.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re great.  I‘m so glad to meet you, finally, coming from Paris.  “La Seduction.”  It‘s got to be a great beach read.  Elaine, you‘re such a great writer and reporter.

Look that cover.  Can‘t miss that one.

Elaine Sciolino, thank you so much for joining us from Paris.  The name of the book “La Seduction,” as I said.  It‘s got to go to the beach with you.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with something the Obama campaign needs to be worried about, Michele Bachmann has emerged from the other side.  What are the Democrats are going to do for women at top?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with trouble, real trouble.  It‘s the trouble I sense out here in the country for President Obama and Democrats if they don‘t address the gender imbalance in their politics.

Hillary Clinton ran a brave, hugely important campaign for president in 2008.  She carried all the big Democratic states: New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and California.  Her only miss was Illinois, Obama‘s home state.

Obama won the nomination because he focused on the smaller states, many of them where Republicans win in November and rolled up the delegates.  He won on strategy and I strongly believe because he had staked out his opposition to the Iraq war early and definitively.

All that said, Senator Clinton ran a courageous campaign, especially -

and I watched firsthand—in New Hampshire when given up her loss, she spoke for hours at those big gatherings up there showing her metal.

           

And millions of Democrats, including many women my age were deeply supportive of her and the historic breakthrough she was making.  All that happened and it is not in the past, it is in the present.  And that support for her is real, that passionate belief about what it was all about, and it was about time.

Is everybody listening?  Are you listening at the White House?  Mr.

President, are you listening?

I‘m bringing this up for what the president would call a whole host of reasons.  One, Congresswoman Bachmann is going to make a real bang in this coming election season.  If you don‘t know that, you don‘t know politics.

Romney is like one of those fine hotels in the third world country.  The rebels ride past those hotels in their jeeps when the revolution comes and it‘s coming in the Republican Party.

“Time” magazine‘s got it right.  Bet on the pitchforks to take it from the country-clubbers.

Two, when Democratic women, again, especially my age, see what happens on the other side, they‘re going to wonder and not quietly, why it is not happening on theirs.

Third, Secretary of State Clinton is going to be leaving her job by the end of next year.  Who, I have to ask, is going to replace and what‘s going to look like an all male lineup in the top administration positions, State, the Pentagon, attorney general, Treasury—all men, not good.

Fourth, I hear it, I am hearing it, including from trustee colleagues I hear it.  Better watch out.  This denial of women, their equal place, especially in Democratic politics, I‘m talking about the top, isn‘t going to end well.

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

And, by the way, have a Happy Father‘s Day.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

           

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