1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 6/20/2011 3:29:24 PM ET 2011-06-20T19:29:24

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Michelle Bernard, Hampton Pearson, Michelle Bernard, David Corn, Ben Smith, Steve McMahon, Mark Penn, Josh Marshall, Al Sharpton

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Twittered away.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

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

Leading off tonight: Exit stage left.  Congressman Anthony Weiner finally gave way to the pressure on top of him.  He‘s resigned.  In the end, it was the drip, drip, drip of disclosure that was too much.  Inappropriate texts led to X-rated photographs, and the scandal a major distraction for Democrats.

Now can Democrats and progressives get back to their message, back to pounding Republicans for trying to kill Medicare, or will the Weiner hullabaloo haunt them through 2012?

Also, has there ever been a crisis more poorly handled than this one?  Congressman Weiner lied about it at first, only to confess with days, and then he dragged it out in hopes he could somehow survive, even as just about everyone on top of him called for his resignation.

We‘ve got the story covered from all the angles tonight, including trying to discern what finally pushed the congressman over the edge to resign.  And he did it today.  And throughout the hour, we‘re going to hear some of the brash, in-your-face barbs that made this guy famous, Anthony Weiner.

So let‘s get right to it with “The Washington Post‘s” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson—he‘s an MSNBC political analyst—and Politico‘s Ben Smith, who was in that room for that big press conference this afternoon when Weiner resigned.

Here‘s Weiner making the announcement of his resignation with hecklers, one of them from Howard Stern, turning the event into a freak show.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  I have never forgotten my neighbors because they represent the same middle class story as mine.  I went to public schools my whole life.  My mother was a school teacher for 32 years.  My father went to law school on the GI Bill.  The middle class story of New York is my story, and I‘m very proud of that.

I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do, to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it.  Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible.  So today, I‘m announcing my resignation from Congress—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!  (INAUDIBLE) pervert!

WEINER:  -- so my colleagues can get back to work—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you!

WEINER:  -- my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The people demand to know!

WEINER:  -- to heal from the damage I have caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, let me go to Ben Smith, who‘s been doing great reporting on this very sleazy story, but you‘ve been great.  Let me ask you, Ben.  What was—that reminded me of the Saddam Hussein hanging today.  Even they couldn‘t do that right.  The grossness of the affair led to the grossness of the finale.  Who were those clowns in the audience making a disgusting situation even more disgusting?  Was that a Howard Stern guy?  Who was yelling—what was that line, something about seven inches?  Who was—who was doing that yelling?

BEN SMITH, POLITICO.COM:  I mean, it was a crazy press conference.  I‘ve covered big New York press conferences for 10 years, and this was the biggest I‘ve seen.  There were, like, 40 cameras.  And there was a guy—

Howard Stern confirmed it was some kind of—kind of a stunt man from his show who—he didn‘t look like he was having any fun.  He looked like he was there working—got up and started screaming obscenities.

Weiner had also brought in a bunch of his—it was at a senior center, and there were a lot of elderly people around the edges who were Weiner‘s supporters.  So you heard there when he said, I‘m going to resign, yelling, No, No, don‘t resign, who weren‘t hecklers, who were, I think, trying to be supportive.  So—and just packed with reporters.  It was—it was quite a scene.

MATTHEWS:  Gene, you know, I guess if you have to have a scandal, it‘s not—this is—I don‘t even know how to say something sarcastic right now.  It‘s certainly a strange one.  It‘s the only one we‘ve ever had that was viral, virtual.  It wasn‘t good old-time sex, it was something strange.  It wasn‘t criminal, apparently.

What was this thing?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well—

MATTHEWS:  How would we write this in the history books?

ROBINSON:  It was—it was—it was a bunch of things.  First of all, it was a sex scandal without actual sex.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROBINSON:  It was not our first kind of on-line sex scandal. 

Representative Chris Lee, who—who—

MATTHEWS:  Right.

ROBINSON:  -- sent that shirtless photo to the woman he met on Craigslist, and that became public.  He resigned in four hours.  And I actually thought from the beginning that as soon as the Weiner stuff started coming out, this was not going to end well for him.  There was going to be more revelations and we going to have our second on-line sex scandal.

MATTHEWS:  Well, here he is thanking a lot of people.  Here‘s more from his statement.  This is an amazing—it‘s not that long a statement.  Here‘s a big chunk of it.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I want to thank, of course, the many people who have helped me, the people who have volunteered, the people who have given me advice, the many of my constituents who have offered me good ideas.  And of course, I want to express my gratitude to my family, to my mother and father, who instilled in me the values that carried me this far, to my brother, Jason, and of course, to my wife, Huma, who has stood through me through this entire difficult period and to whom I owe so very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ben, our colleague, Mike Viqueira, did a great job today.  He reported—I thought a very good question that sort of popped out of this whole event today.  Why didn‘t he just write a letter to the secretary of state of New York and issue his resignation?  Why have another circus?

What do you think this—is he going to continue in politics at some later date?  I think he ought to take a crack at it, if he cleans up this mess.  He‘s got talent, but—and I‘ve always said, or said for a week or so, he should resign, then contest the special election.  He‘s obviously not going to do that.

Is he trying to string out his career, more importantly, to string out this scandal?

SMITH:  You know, I think—I mean, I think there were two things here.  He‘s a guy who has lived through the New York media, through TV his whole—you know, his entire political life and his public life (INAUDIBLE) his whole life.  And I think he couldn‘t quite imagine going offstage quietly, privately.  That‘s just not how he operates.  I think he sort of—it‘s sort of part of his identity that he had to do this in public.

You know, and I do think—I think you‘re right.  I think he probably can come back.  These things now on the Internet tend to burn—these scandals burn incredibly hot, but eventually, they burn themselves out.  You see Eliot Spitzer is back, Spitzer, who broke the law, who was a holier than thou politician who had prosecuted people for the sin he committed, is back.  People are talking about his running for mayor sometime.

I do think that Anthony Weiner, who has almost $5 million in a political account in New York City, probably could run for something at some point.

MATTHEWS:  Gene, quickly, do you think that‘s feasible, nationally, given your perspective on this thing?

ROBINSON:  I it‘s difficult for him to come back into politics.  I think there are a lot of things he can do.  He can go into television, for example or he‘s certainly a good political commentator.  He can do politics in other ways.  The difference between him and Spitzer is there are not pictures of—naked pictures of Spitzer out there.  This stuff lives forever, and I think it‘s going to live forever and haunt Weiner forever.  I think it‘s going to be hard.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re so generous to our profession, Gene.  I know you‘re still a print guy at heart because only you would say he can do television because you don‘t think—well, anyway—look, he can‘t teach, he can‘t lobby.  There‘s so many things he can‘t do.  He‘s not a lawyer.  He‘s not a CPA.  He‘s not a physician.  So you‘re saying at least he could be a television guy.

ROBINSON:  Well, or a print guy.  You know, I‘ll go either way on that, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

ROBINSON:  He can certainly comment on politics from a variety of perspectives in a variety of media.  But I just—I do think it‘s going to be difficult for him certainly to run again for a national office.

MATTHEWS:  Ben, you wanted to jump in there, right?

SMITH:  I was just saying that the show—the show a colleague of mine suggests that I would definitely watch is Weiner/Huckabee.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, God.  I don‘t know how to make that—figure it out.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s Weiner, by the way, on why he got into politics.  This is sort of a biographical moment today.  And I think it‘s sort of a projection of how he‘s going to continue.  This isn‘t a good-bye, this is an “I shall return” speech.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I got into politics to help give voice to the many who simply did not have one.  Now I‘ll be looking for other ways to contribute my talents to make sure that we live up to that most New York and American of ideals, the idea that leaving (ph) a family, a community and ultimately a country is the one thing that all unites us, the one thing we‘re all focused on.  With God‘s help and with hard work, we will all be successful.  Thank you, and good afternoon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ben, at the meeting today—you were—there it is—I always ask people who are on television with me, what was at the meeting today, at that crazy press conference, you could smell, feel in the room that didn‘t show up on camera?

SMITH:  You know, I think, actually, the freak show quality produced a kind of sympathy for Weiner that had basically been lacking to this point, the fact that you had this guy just sort of abusing him, I think, produced a little reaction, a little sense of, like, Poor guy, let him exit with some kind of dignity.  Although, as you say, that was a very political speech, like, a totally political speech that looked forward to something next.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s what I think.  Gene, your thoughts.  In terms of his purpose, do you think he‘s going to try to get—take a break, a time-out, as we say in grade school, but come back off that bench in some way?

ROBINSON:  Clearly, in some way, he will come off the bench.  I‘m not sure in what particular form, but he‘s not done with the political world.  He‘s also—as you point out, he‘s not a lawyer.  He‘s not—you know, he doesn‘t have these other things to fall back on.  Politics is what he does.  So in some way, shape or form, I think he‘s going to come back and try to do it again.

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe Roger Ailes over at Fox will have him play the liberal.  That would be—

(LAUGHTER)

SMITH:  I asked him about it today—

MATTHEWS:  Wouldn‘t that be—wouldn‘t that be—Ben, what‘d he say?

SMITH:  They didn‘t bite.  The referred me to CNN.

MATTHEWS:  It‘d be perfect for Roger to say, Here‘s your typical liberal, with all the lifestyle qualities of a typical liberal.  Let‘s talk to him about the latest scandal every night.

Your thoughts on this—second question to you, Ben.  You cover politics, not just scandals.  Will this be a punctuation point?  Will this be a period or a comma?  Will we hear Steve Israel, for example, tomorrow talking about the Medicare problem of the Republicans and the danger to Medicare to older people they‘re posing with their budget plan?  Will they get back on mark fast enough?

SMITH:  I think the Democrats sure hope they‘re able to get back onto their message.  And I don‘t see—you know, remember, with the Mark Foley scandal, there were these echoes of what the Republican leadership had done and how they had handled it.  And because there‘s no criminal aspect to this, I‘m not sure there are more questions, really, to ask Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel, although, you know, we‘ll see.  They‘re certainly going to try hard to get—to stop talking about Anthony Weiner.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it sure beats a long ethics hearing, doesn‘t it, Gene.

ROBINSON:  Yes, it does.  And democrats are breathing a sigh of relief over that.  I think Democrats will banish the word “Weiner” to the extent that they can from their vocabulary and go back to Medicare.  They‘ll be very happy to have this over and done with, and I think they‘ll declare it over and done with.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s check the word counts on Weiner from now.  Here‘s more of Weiner, by the way, a little more of this, for those who missed the event today.  It was, as I said, sort of like the hanging of Saddam Hussein, gross even in its conclusion.  It was interrupted by hecklers calling out really obscene stuff.  I‘m sure you can hear it.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I want to thank my colleagues in the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike.  They come from different places around the country, but fundamentally, we all agree.  They‘re all patriots and I will miss them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you more than seven inches?

WEINER:  Thank you.  I also want to express my gratitude—

(SHOUTING)

WEINER:  -- to members of my staff.  They‘re young people who are not paid very much.  They‘re people that work very hard and very long hours.  Ultimately, those people define the notion of service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I guess, Ben, that—you were there.  I want to close on this.  That certainly is an example of keeping on message, despite what we all heard on television, the gross comment by that Howard Stern guy.  He kept talking.  He did his job in the end.  I think Weiner did very well today.  I‘m going to leave it at that.

I think Weiner did a very good job, at his best.  He had dignity today.  He had a measure of class, which has been missing in all of this.  And maybe for his good and the good of his wife and his family, his parents, who must be suffering through this, he‘ll be back to being a human being after all this.  Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post.”  And Ben Smith of Politico did a great job all week of—actually, two or three weeks of covering this mess.

Coming up: How not to handle a scandal.  This is going in the books.  Maybe I‘ll put it in my next edition of HARDBALL.  This is not how you deal with a problem.  You don‘t lie your way through it.  You don‘t say, I want to call a lawyer.  I‘ve got to call a doctor.  I‘m waiting for my wife to get home.  You get it over with.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As a congressman, Anthony Weiner made his name as a brash, outspoken champion for liberal causes, and he didn‘t mind dust-ups with the other side.  Last year, during a debate over health care reform, he made this charge against the Republican Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of an insurance industry.  That‘s the fact.  They say that, Well, this isn‘t going to do enough.  But when we propose an alternative to provide competition, they‘re against it.  They say that, Well, we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners, and they‘ll do the job.  But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said, We‘re against it.  They said they want to have competition, and when we proposed requiring competition, the Republicans are against it.  They are a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!  That‘s the fact!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Republican congressman Dan Lungren objected to Weiner‘s statement and asked that his words be taken down, taken off the record.  So Weiner asked to have his words withdrawn and then substituted new ones.  Here was Weiner‘s clarification.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  Make no mistake about it, every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  As you might have guessed, Lungren again objected to that. 

And we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  Today, I am announcing my resignation from Congress—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!  (INAUDIBLE) pervert!

WEINER:  -- so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The people demand to know!

WEINER:  -- to heal from the damage I have caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What a crowd out there.  Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Congressman Weiner with his announcement today, and the crowd heckling him.  Ten days ago, on June 6th, Weiner denied he would resign in another New York press conference.  Here‘s what our friend, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, had to say on HARDBALL that same day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  And he opens up all these new lines of inquiry.  And I think in two weeks, if Anthony Weiner‘s still in Congress, I‘ll be surprised.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  The same Steve McMahon joins us right now, along with MSNBC‘s analyst, political analyst, Michelle Bernard.

Steve McMahon, what led you to believe, besides your ingenious mind—did you have a semblance of what was coming?

MCMAHON:  Well, only because Congressman Weiner had spent so much time attacking the press and denying it so vigorously but yet being unable to answer the questions at the same time.  And then when he went out in the news conference and he basically raised a bunch of new questions and—you and I that evening—you‘re the first person to point it out, Chris, that he actually raised a lot of new areas of inquiry.  And why didn‘t he give a short statement, take no questions and leave the stage?

That‘s the big mistake he made.  The first was lying.  The second was waiting for as long as he did to get the facts out.  And the third was standing there and answering all those questions for 40 minutes.  I know he loves the media, but in this case, that instinct is what destroyed him.

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, I think you—let‘s take a look—Michelle, I want you to comment.  Here was—NBC‘s Luke Russert did a great job in his interview because he got the question that got the answer out of this guy that I think did exactly what Steve said, teased us.  Here‘s Luke with the question, and him with the answer.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  The picture that went over Twitter to Gennette (ph) Cordova from your account, is that you?

WEINER:  Well, let‘s keep in mind what happened here.  I was pranked, hacked, punked, whatever it is.  Someone sent out a picture.  I‘m an easy name to make fun of, and I think that that‘s what happened again.

RUSSERT:  But that‘s not a picture of you?

WEINER:  You know, I can‘t say with certitude.  My system was hacked.  Pictures can be manipulated.  Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.  One of the reasons that I‘ve asked a firm that includes an Internet security arm is take a look at what the heck happened here was to make sure it doesn‘t happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Michelle Bernard, when in history will politicians learn that, when you dodge a question, a decent reporter asks it again?

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  A decent—

MATTHEWS:  Luke asked the exact question again:  Is that you? 

And finally came something like the truth in the teasing manner he offered it:  I can‘t say without certitude.

Translation:  OK, you got me. 

BERNARD:  Absolutely, Chris. 

I was going to say, it‘s not just that Luke asked a great question.  Every single human being who watched—who watched that interview had to be thinking in that instant that, if he doesn‘t know without certitude—

(LAUGHTER)

MCMAHON:  Right. 

BERNARD:  -- whose body part that was, then obviously he absolutely, absolutely—absolutely did it and it was him in that picture. 

He made a terrible, terrible, terrible mistake.  And I have to tell you, one of the things that most women that I have talked to about—about what has happened with Anthony Weiner have been more grateful than anything else that we were—that the American public didn‘t have to stand by and see his watch—his wife stand by his side, as if to say that all of this is OK and I will be with you no matter what. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  As a woman—and I think it‘s a great question—what should be the protocol henceforth for men who get trouble in trouble in the general area of sex that doesn‘t at all involve the innocent wife?  What should be the role of the innocent spouse in such a case?  You say it‘s to be off-camera? 

BERNARD:  Well, I will say, first of all, the protocol should be don‘t get into sex problems if you are a married man.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BERNARD:  But going past that, assuming that—assuming that that comes up as an issue, you know, it really depends on the spouse.

But over the last few years, whether it was Jim McGreevey, the former governor from New Jersey, or to other people, when you sit and you watch the spouse looking up, you know, like a deer in the headlights, and not knowing really what to do, most American women who—and you have to remember, it‘s American women who vote more than American men. 

Women are looking at that.  They‘re watching it on television and they‘re saying, I can‘t possibly suffer through this.  I feel sorry for her.  How could he do this to his wife? 

So, I think that, from now on, we will probably see wives not stand there and deal with the humiliation that we have seen time and time again over the last couple of years. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, as a guy, I think the only classy about the whole Spitzer mess was the classiness of Silda, his wife.

BERNARD:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  When she came out with that classy—or, I should say, tasteful scarf, like a real gentlelady putting up with her embarrassing husband, I thought at least all‘s right with her world, even if it isn‘t with him. 

Your thoughts, Steve. 

MCMAHON:  Well, no, I was just going to say the same thing.  I think his wife actually may have changed the rules. 

And people have given Anthony Weiner a lot of credit for not dragging his wife out there.  Anybody who knows his wife—and I don‘t know her well.  But anybody who‘s ever met his wife will tell you that he was not going to be able to drag her out anywhere that she didn‘t want to go. 

She‘s somebody who is a woman of her own mind and probably told Anthony Weiner what she was going to do.  He doesn‘t, I would suspect, presume to tell her.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s my experience in marriage. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That‘s my exact experience. 

MCMAHON:  Mine, too.  Mine, too. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go.  Here‘s Weiner on his June 6 press conference, when he admitted what he did.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  Made it very clear I did not send pictures, that my Twitter account had been hacked and was trying—apparently had been successful, but after hours, almost 11 hours of answering questions, any that anyone wanted to put today, I‘m going to have to get back to work doing the job that I‘m paid to do. 

So, I appreciate your patience and understanding. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Stephen (sic) and Michelle, it seems like there‘s a couple of things we‘re learning here about politics.  We have already learned and we are discovering it again. 

One of them is rolling disclosure.  It‘s a phrase that I have been experienced over the years.  It‘s when politicians finally tell you the truth after they‘re forced to.  They roll it out slowly. 

They give you little teases, Steve.  What do you tell your clients when they‘re involved in something that they can survive if they deal with it the right way? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I tell them that the only way to survive, if you‘re going to have a sort of rolling disclosure situation, is to get everything out as quickly as possible, and then to basically answer whatever questions you‘re willing to answer and draw a curtain on it. 

And you don‘t go out then, if you‘re Anthony Weiner, three days later, when there‘s a whole bunch of people staked out in front of your apartment, and go buy an orange, so that you can talk to reporters. 

You basically try to bring the curtain down on the scandal and wait it out.  I‘m not sure he could have made it through this, because this was going to be a rolling disclosure, unless he told everything.  And I presume that he didn‘t want to tell everything because he was protecting his wife and maybe other people.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCMAHON:  But in a case like this, the only chance that you ever have is to get all the facts out, get them out quickly, answer the questions, and try to move on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, here‘s more of Weiner‘s press conference today.

Michelle, you respond to this. 

Ten days ago, by the way—this was at that earlier press conference, as part of this rollout of the truth, which took two weeks.  Here is the first part.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  I don‘t know the exact ages of the women, and I don‘t know if you do.  I‘m going to respect their privacy.  But they are all adults.  At least to the best of my knowledge, they were all adults and they were engaging in these conversations consensually. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This is a—to change the gender here, Michelle, this is Gypsy Rose Lee stuff.  This is teasing. 

First of all, I can‘t say without certitude it‘s not me.  Then I can‘t say exactly how old they were.  I mean, it‘s like he‘s like leaving each press conference with a little bit—like you do in television.  You tease the next item.  He was like teasing the next episode. 

BERNARD:  He was literally giving people a reason to go out and do more investigations.

And I believe it was, know, a week ago tomorrow that we found out that one of the people that he engaged in some sort of online communication with was actually a 17-year-old young woman in Delaware. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but that was—I‘m not going to defend him generally, but that was apparently just politics they were talking.  That‘s what I heard. 

BERNARD:  Well, yes, and I‘m not going to dispute that.

But the bottom line is, he handled this so horribly from day one.  He should have either done—done what was discussed earlier, which was come out with all of it right in the very beginning, or he should have said absolutely nothing.  But either way—

(CROSSTALK)

BERNARD:  Go on.  I‘m sorry. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m sorry.  I‘m sorry.  I have got to go to the political adviser here.

Steve, 30 seconds of advice for this guy if he ever wants to run for politics again.  What should he do in the next six months? 

MCMAHON:  Well, I think he gave his first campaign speech today, where he basically said, I will be back, but I‘m not going to be back tomorrow. 

I think he‘s already planning his comeback.  And I think what he needs to do is, he needs to show contrition.  He needs to probably do something for the community that‘s not—that seems selfless. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MCMAHON:  And then he needs to basically wait until the time is right.  He‘s got $5 million.  And he can pop up at any time.  He‘s a very talented guy. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That‘s the advice I gave Spitzer before he signed with CNN.  He ignored me completely. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON:  Or get a TV show.

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you.

And you‘re right, and I was right, and the other guys are wrong.  But I think it‘s brilliant advice.  Take your time.  Do something good that‘s not just for you.

MCMAHON:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And, eventually, people will say, hey, everybody‘s human. 

MCMAHON:  That‘s right. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Michelle Bernard.

And solve that problem he‘s got about Twittering.  Get off the Twitter. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Steve McMahon.

Don‘t ever Twitter again. 

MCMAHON:  Put the BlackBerry away.

MATTHEWS:  Much more on Anthony Weiner‘s resignation—we‘re learning a lot—later in the hour. 

Up next:  Mitt Romney tries to bond with out-of-work voters by saying he‘s unemployed.  One of the richest guys ever to run for president says—you don‘t chuckle about being unemployed when you‘re a multimillionaire.  That‘s the “Sideshow.” 

This guy has got the wrong foot out there. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: an inconvenient truth, especially for Mitt Romney. 

Al Gore has just endorsed the Republican contender‘s stance on climate change.  You‘re right.  I‘m right.  In a post titled “Good for Mitt Romney,” Gore writes, “While our Republicans are running for the truth—from the truth, he is sticking to his guns in the face of the anti-science wing of the Republican Party.” 

I think Gore made a mistake there.  He should have paid tribute to Romney and to Jon Huntsman, who is getting into the race next Tuesday.  Huntsman also believes in manmade climate change, as do all reputable scientists out there.

We will be right back with more of “Sideshow.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Hampton Pearson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

Stocks finished mixed in light trading, the Dow adding 64 points, the S&P 500 gaining two, the Nasdaq, however, giving up seven points.  A rocky session, with traders unwinding positions ahead of a quadruple witching day tomorrow.  That‘s when futures and option expire.  It happens once each quarter, and tends to kick up volatility all week. 

In economic news, manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region has slowed to its lowest level in nearly two years.  But, on the upside, weekly jobless claims and housing start numbers both came in better than expected. 

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion slightly better-than-expected earnings and revenue after the closing bell.  But next-quarter guidance was well short of expectations. 

And, finally, a big M&A deal announced today—natural gas pipeline operator Energy Transfer Equity is buying rival Southern Union for about $4 billion. 

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

HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

For the nearly two weeks of this affair, Anthony Weiner was under pressure to resign from all sides.  What was it that ultimately pushed him to resign from Congress today?

Mark Penn was an adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton over the years, and David Corn is an MSNBC political analyst who writes for “Mother Jones.”

Mark, thanks for coming on tonight.

Tell us what you can.  We were hearing for a while that Secretary Clinton, I think, was standing obviously behind her top aide, Huma, who is the wife of Anthony Weiner, obviously, in solidarity of the innocent. 

And the question then is, was—did they urge them to stick it out, or did they urge him to cut his losses?  What was the message coming from the Clintons?  Do you know?  If you don‘t, you don‘t. 

MARK PENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  No, I don‘t know the message that was coming from the Clintons, but it was pretty clear what the message was coming from everyone else and from the entire Democratic establishment. 

When you look at the politics of this thing, essentially, he was a congressman, not a president.  He—you know, the Democrats themselves really needed to get back to their message, and he was in a safe seat.  So the Democrats couldn‘t afford this kind of distraction. 

There was no gain in it.  And, frankly, it was a miracle he lasted even two weeks, given how this was going. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that how you followed it, David?  Did you sense there was any kind of dispute within the factions around this couple?  Was there a friction there, an argument inside about what the right course was? 

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think there was probably some hesitation within the Democratic Caucus to jump on him too fast, too quickly, just out of a general sense of solidarity and loyalty. 

But, as Mark said, this was a guy who they didn‘t really need.  They didn‘t need him in his seat.  He wasn‘t a committee chairman.  He‘s a fellow who didn‘t have a lot of friends. 

I talked to someone connected to the White House about halfway through the scandal, and they said, listen, he takes a lot of shots at us.  And we can live with that.  We don‘t mind that.  But he‘s arrogant.  We don‘t like him that much. 

And he doesn‘t have a lot of goodwill around town, even though he had

married into the Clinton clan.  So, all that being equal, political

calculations rule the day.  And the Democrats decided that it wasn‘t worth

sticking out their necks for this guy—they didn‘t gain anything by that

when, back in the Clinton days, they all—all these people who called on Anthony Weiner to resign all stood by President Clinton and didn‘t want him to leave, because they still thought that his—his remaining in office was a good thing for them politically. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, let‘s take a look at this. 

“The Chicago Sun-Times” reported June 9 that—quote—“Bill and Hillary Clinton have had numerous long conversations with the two spouses in this case.  The talks with the New York congressman very icy and tough, to say the least, said another source close to both the secretary of state and to” Huma, his—her assistant. 

Let me go to this question. 

What do you think was it—because, to me, I kept asking myself—

Mark, first, I have advocated that he should resign and run in the special election.  Maybe that is too expeditious for him to return to public life.  But I thought, leave it up to the people while they‘re red-hot out there in that district in Brooklyn and Queens.  They will stand by their man against any opponent. 

He could come back in, in a marginal race and against a couple challengers, and he could come back in and be certified as:  OK, vote of no confidence.  I went to the people.  They said, come on back in. 

Why do you think he avoided going that route, when he had that opportunity, Mark? 

PENN:  Oh, I just think that‘s a—that‘s an unrealistic scenario, terms of the way things are going here. 

MATTHEWS:  Why? 

PENN:  Because he‘s going to need—as your previous guest said, he‘s going to need a time here to go back and kind of regroup, to do some things for the community. 

If he‘s going to come back into politics, it certainly isn‘t going to be in a special election.  And, besides, that would have kept the story going.  You know, Democrats need to get back to their message.  That would have been months more of the Anthony Weiner story.  That would have been a continued distraction.  That would have benefited no one. 

I don‘t think anyone would have welcomed him in that race.  I don‘t see that scenario as reasonable. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORN:  My guess is that the Democrats, if they hadn‘t, would have sent a strong signal.  You come back this way, you will not be welcomed here, and that won‘t go over well back in your district. 

I also think there was probably a constituency of one that had a lot of influence here.  And that was probably his wife.  If she had urged him to do something, maybe he would have taken that seriously.  I think there was probably some sincerity here when he said he wanted to wait for her to return, and sit down and have a long talk. 

So, you know, you can‘t overestimate, you know, the fact that he was playing to an audience of just one person at the very end of this, because there was nobody else standing by him except for a few people back home.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s take a look at “The New York Times” reported on Saturday, June 11th.  Quote, “Pelosi and Israel, Steve Israel, the Democratic campaign committee chair, are frustrated.  According to one high-ranking Democratic official when Mr. Weiner repeatedly told them he could not resign now because his wife Huma Abedin was traveling abroad with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, an assertion they viewed as an unpersuasive pretext.”

So, Mark, to you, this is—I don‘t want to get into family issues because we all have families and spouses and we have issues at home, and most people argue about certain things occasionally.  And the question here is, was this guy playing out his strength all along and he finally ran out of strengths?

First, he said, I want to hire a lawyer.  Everybody chuckled at that.  And then he said, I‘m going in for treatment, and apparently, Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic Party in the House laughed that one off.  And then he said, “I have to wait for my wife to get home.”

Is it reasonable to assume he was simply playing for time?

PENN:  Well, I think he was playing for time to see if there was a way for him to keep his seat.  I mean, he tried more or less every trick in the book.  In terms of trying to keep his seat and none was working because he‘d had no political support, no leadership.  No support, really, of any kind.

So, I think it left him no choice, and I think that he had to come to grips with the fact that he no choice.  I think he‘d be sitting there saying, look, I didn‘t do anything illegal.

But this didn‘t morph into the kind of thing that happened with President Clinton, where the Republicans were trying to unseat the government and the Democrats rallied to the notion that his private life was separate from his public life.  Quite the opposite happened here.

MATTHEWS:  And I think he made a good point there, that this is a safe district for the D‘s, right, Mark?

PENN:  It‘s a safe district.

CORN:  It may not even exist.  They have to get rid of the district in redistricting.  So, this may be an easy way out because they don‘t have to bounce anybody who they really care about.  It won‘t be a competition amongst those incumbents.

PENN:  So, I think the Democrats today—

(CROSSTALK)

PENN:  are saying two words.  The Democrats today are saying two words to Anthony Weiner: thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. I think he did well today.  I think he did the right thing for the party clearly and he handled himself well even with that Howard Stern person and some bad people in the room.

Let‘s take a look at what I think was a move by the president that may have been the dealmaker for his departure on Monday.  The president did something so unusual.  He went on the “Today” show with Ann Curry and he said Weiner should quit.  It was a good question by Ann that got it going, of course.

Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign, because public service is exactly that.  It‘s a service to the public.  And when you get to the point where because of various personal distractions you can‘t serve as effectively as you need to, at a time when people are worrying about jobs and their mortgages and paying the bills, then you should probably step back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think the president didn‘t get hurt by this.  He has such a clean lifestyle and everything.  I think he‘s probably not touched at all.

But, clearly, the Democrats have not been able to get their message out.  They‘re probably thrilled they can start tomorrow doing that.

Mark Penn, thank you for joining us.  Thank you as always, David Corn.

Up next: was Congressman Weiner right to the resign or should he have tried to stay with it?  There are those who believe he should have fought this and fought on the grounds that he had something to say in politics, he should have been allowed to keep saying it.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  More now of Anthony Weiner‘s greatest hits from the House floor.  Here he is last year going ballistic at Republicans and Congressman Pete King in particular for voting down a bill that would have provided health care for 9/11 responders using procedural grounds against it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  And then we stand up and say, “Oh, if only we had a different process, we vote yes.”  You vote yes if you believe yes.  You vote in something if you believe it‘s the right thing.  If you believe it‘s the wrong thing, you vote no.  We are following a procedure—I will not yield to the gentleman and the gentleman will observe regular order.  The gentleman will observe regular order!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Anthony Weiner, that was him back in July of 2010.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER:  You know, I want to just advise people watching at home playing that now popular drinking game of “you take a shot whenever the Republican say something that‘s not true”—please, assign a designated driver.  This is going to be a long afternoon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That clip quote from January of this year shows the kind of passion former Congressman Anthony Weiner brought to the job.  He was right to resign, or was he?

My guests disagree.

Josh Marshall is editor of “Talking Points Memo,” and the Reverend Al Sharpton heads the National Action Network.

Gentlemen, I can never predict how people are going to go on a topic like this.  I don‘t know whether it‘s partisan issue or not.

Josh Marshall, should he have quit?

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO:  I wish he wouldn‘t have quit.  If he wanted to, I have no problem with that.  The key is, I don‘t like how his party ganged up on him and forced him out.  You know, the next thing they were going to do, say they weren‘t going to have electricity in his office anymore, so he couldn‘t have lights on or something.

The kind of universal demand from the leader of his party in Congress, the head the Democratic Party, everyone, demanding that he resign, when other people who‘ve done infinitely worse things have never been treated like that—and all while this is happening, his voters, the people who he actually works for, polls showed clearly, they didn‘t want him to resign.

So, it‘s not that I think that, you know, the Republicans are going to stand or fall whether Anthony Weiner is in office, just the intensity of demands just seemed off to me.  So, because of that, I wish he wouldn‘t have had finally buckled, although I can only imagine the pressure was overpowering.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  That‘s one point of view.  He should have stuck.

Reverend Sharpton, what do you think he should have done?  Was the right thing to do, to walk?

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  I think he put himself in a very precarious position with his media tour denying everything when he knew that this was something personally he had to know that his denials were wrong.  But I think where my concern, where I agree with him is that, my concern is—where is the precedent now?  Where are we drawing the line?

We have people, as just stated, that have done far worse, that have not had pictures and didn‘t have sex, but had sex with no pictures, who didn‘t leave Congress but were supported with Republican dollars for reelection.

So I think the question that now we are left with is where is the precedent?  Where is the line going to be drawn now?  And I think that that is a real, real concern for a lot of us because will they now try to use the Weiner example every time someone is accused of something, or does it have to be proven or do you have to lie about it?

I mean, where do we go from here?  I don‘t know that that‘s clear.

MATTHEWS:  Well you know what, gentlemen, I started this discussion about two weeks ago with our producers arguing we should look at this for what it is, public service abused or not.  And not circle the wagons ideologically.

Do you disagree with that or are you on that other side that argument? 

Should this be look at in a partisan fashion?

Josh, would you make the claim for a conservative who, I‘m not going to mention the name because it would impugn somebody, but if somebody of his rank did exactly the same thing on the other side of the aisle behave the same way, lying and everything, would you say they should stick?

MARSHALL:  I would.  And again, you know, I run a news Web site.  We‘ve been all over this story.  We‘ve published all sorts of embarrassing details about Anthony Weiner.

So, it‘s not that I have any particular brief for him as an individual or what he did.  I‘m not even really trying to defend him.

What I don‘t like is—my sense is, a public servant works for the voters who elected him or her.  And I just—it seemed unseemly to me that people who he doesn‘t work for, he doesn‘t work for Nancy Pelosi.  He doesn‘t work for Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MARSHALL:  He doesn‘t work for Steve Israel.  Those people are sort of ganging up on him and forcing him out.

And, frankly, you know, our Web site covers all sorts of scandals.  We cover them all aggressive.  You know, I don‘t call for people to resign.  That‘s not part of my—that‘s not -- 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, here.  Wait a minute, here.  I want to get Reverend Sharpton in here.

But, you know, Joe McCarthy was censured by the entire Senate.  He probably could have been re-elected out there in Wisconsin.  So, is it always up to the people?

(CROSSTALK)

MARSHALL:  The House can expel a member -- 

SHARPTON:  I don‘t know about your particular site, but to say Republicans and right wingers don‘t call for people to resign—no, they just call for people to be impeached.  I mean, we are talking about a situation here where I think that Mr. Weiner, a lot of—I do a syndicated radio show aside from heading National Action Network—a lot of people that I talked to today wanted him to fight and not resign.

The problem is, it is up to his constituents and people that vote for him.  But he also has a responsibility to say to them that if I‘ve not going to be able to effectively work with the leadership of my party that assign committees that has—that makes it possible for me to deliver goods and services to you, can I effectively represent you?

So, you can‘t discount Pelosi and Democratic leadership because if there‘s not an effective relationship with them, can he deliver for those constituent?

MARSHALL:  Look, I think that‘s a certain point.  And again it got to the point if he was going to be, you know, stripped of his committee assignments and stuff like that.  I just don‘t think they frankly should have done that.

And to go to Chris‘ point—you‘re right, Chris, that that was the case.  And there is a role.

But look, the House can expel a member.  And if they thought that was necessary, then they could have gone that route.  It just—again, I don‘t think the idea of seeing, someone whose made a fool of themselves, but not committed any crime, getting a bum‘s rush out of Congress when, again, it really seemed like as of the last poll, his constituents wanted him to stay in.  And as long as his constituents—

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think that‘s the kind of argument we ought to have in this country.  This is a healthy argument.  Who makes the call, the people at home, the members of Congress, does he get to serve out a term no matter what he does, or the House at all as a whole?

And I think we will have this pressure back and forth.  I think you did it right by calling it a bum‘s rush.  There wasn‘t a tribunal.  There wasn‘t even a vote even on the House floor.

There wasn‘t even a vote in the caucus.  People have run him out without ever standing up and putting in their hand in here.

Interesting stuff.

Thank you, Josh Marshall, as always.

MARSHALL:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Reverend Sharpton, thanks for joining us.

SHARPTON:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  When we return, let me finish with getting back to business now that Weiner thing is behind us.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with a simple statement of fact but also f hope, we are back to business.

That business is making the choice between the two kinds of countries you want to live in.  Do you want to live in a country where 40 million or 50 million Americans and climbing won‘t have health care?  They just go without a doctor, without medicine, without help for their health when they need it?  Or do you want it live in a country where people have health protection and are required to pay what they can for it?  Nothing is perfect, but make your choice.

What kind of country do you want to live in?  One in which gay and bisexual and transgender people are cut out of the mainstream, relegated to second class or no rights, or one in which we are all God‘s children and fully appreciate it  that way?  Your choice, because these two political parties disagree.

Do you want to live in a country where the commander-in-chief operates under the influence of the hawkish neocons, or on which the president makes prudent decisions we might not always like but who works to find a way to bring our troops home, not bizarre, ideological ways to justify sending them off to new countries to invade and occupy?  Yes, there is a choice.

Compare the administrations of Clinton and Obama with those of the Bushes.  Let‘s see.  Iraq, the first time, then Panama and then, Somalia.  Then Bush the second, we in Afghanistan supposedly to catch bin Laden, then off again to Iraq.  Compare that to Clinton, airstrikes over Kosovo, and Obama, this thing Libya, which doesn‘t involve our troops.

What kind of presidents do you want, the ones who lean into war or those who lean against it?  What kind of country you want, one that protects the environment, is concerned about manmade climate change, that believes in science, or the other—those who man inherited the earth to basically pig out on what God has given, who believe that man‘s knowledge shouldn‘t get in the way of exploiting the heck out of this planet as fast as possible?

These are good choices, not at all hard to make.  So, stick with us.

Anthony Weiner‘s got some time-out and some growing up to do.  Maybe we all do.  As I said, we‘re back to business.

And that‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc.  All materials herein are protected by

United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,

transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written

permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,

copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE

More on TODAY.com

  1. Brittany Diaz via Facebook

    Brittany Maynard to her husband: 'My heart is so full of love for you'

    10/30/2014 8:27:16 PM +00:00 2014-10-30T20:27:16
  1. TODAY

    video Celebs guess: Who will TODAY be for Halloween 2014?

    10/30/2014 7:32:19 PM +00:00 2014-10-30T19:32:19
  1. Courtesy of Erica Hill

    Why I run: Erica Hill inspired by dad’s battle with cancer

    10/30/2014 7:08:23 PM +00:00 2014-10-30T19:08:23
  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    At Home with TODAY: Jenna Wolfe shows the love in Harper's nursery

    10/30/2014 11:37:28 AM +00:00 2014-10-30T11:37:28