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updated 7/13/2011 12:24:03 PM ET 2011-07-13T16:24:03

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Ron Reagan, Milissa Rehberger, Simon Hobbs, Evan Hurst, Michelle Goldberg, Michael Wolff

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Betting on disaster.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington. 

Leading off tonight: Social Security checks may not go out.  Yesterday, President Obama said it was time for both parties to eat our peas, to make the tough choices for a big budget deal.  Well, today he said that without a deal, there may not be enough money to send out Social Security checks.

But for many Republicans in Congress, opposing taxes has become more than ideology, it‘s become religion.  They are abdicating now their responsibility to co-govern.  How are we ever going to get a deal if the Republican leaders are more afraid of the Tea Party than they are of the economic collapse to come?

Also, pray away the gay.  Michele Bachmann‘s husband has said the Christian counseling practice he runs does not try to turn gays straight, but the videotape tells a very different story.  This may make Michele Bachmann more popular with her base, but what about everyone else?

Plus, the Murdoch scandal keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Former British PM Gordon Brown told the BBC that Murdoch‘s people used known criminals to get access to his personal information and tried to bring down his government.  The scandal has now hit “The Sunday Times” of London, and his company‘s stock is sinking.  How bad will this get?

Jon Stewart and British ex-pat John Oliver had some fun, a lot of fun, actually, with the Murdoch story.  That‘s in the “Sideshow” tonight.

Finally, “Let Me Finish” tonight with a name that has become synonymous with candor, courage and healing, Betty Ford.

We start with the tough choices necessary for a big budget deal and whether Republicans are willing to make them or risk driving the economy right off that cliff.  Eugene Robinson is “The Washington Post” columnist.  Of course, he won the Pulitzer Prize writing there, and the MSNBC analyst he is today.  And Ron Reagan is an author, and of course, political commentator here.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.  I want you to watch what President Obama taped in an interview for CBS today, in which he made his Washington political fight quite relatable to real people in the country who don‘t normally watch political programs like this but will be very much affected by what we talk about in the next couple of minutes.  Let‘s listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS:  Can you tell the folks at home that no matter what happens, the Social Security checks are going to go out on August the 3rd?  There are about $20 billion worth of Social Security checks that have to go out the day after the government is supposedly going to go into default.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, this is not just a matter of Social Security checks.  These are veterans‘ checks, these are folks on disability and their checks.  There are about 70 million checks that go out.

PELLEY:  Can you guarantee as president those checks will go out on August the 3rd?

OBAMA:  I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven‘t resolved this issue because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  We passed our budget back in the spring, outlined our priorities.  Where‘s the budget‘s—where‘s the president‘s plan?  When‘s he going to lay his cards on the table?  This—this debt limit increase is his problem, and I think it‘s time for him to lead by putting his plan on the table, something that the Congress can pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that question, of course, is—I want to go to the first point there with Gene Robinson, and then get to Ron Reagan.  I want to stick to the key points of reality here.  Before we get into the blame game, before we get into which side is dropping the ball and which one‘s willing to take the shot here, the president‘s made it real today.  It‘s no longer Geithner, that quiet-talking fellow that comes on once in a while and speaks to us.  The president of the United States is telling people tonight, people—some people rely for 90 percent of their income, Gene, as you know, on Social Security.

EUGENE ROBINSON, “WASHINGTON POST,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes, people will hear this.  This is—this an important step, I think, because it does make it real.  I mean, when you listen to Tim Geithner explain what happens on August 2nd or August 3rd, if no resolution is found, it‘s very scary, but it‘s complicated.  You know, the T-bills mature, $87 billion, $90 billion the next week, dah-dah-dah-dah.

When you say the Social Security checks may not go out—I can‘t guarantee that you‘ll get your check that you depend on—I think that focuses people on the importance of what‘s going on now, and one hopes that will focus politicians here on, you know, the ramifications of the game they‘re playing.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Ron, I was thinking back visually, as we all think visually more than linearly.  And I was thinking back, going over my old paper route in Bucks County in Pennsylvania.  I was thinking, you know, those older people that come out to the mailbox—I guess they still do—to get their checks in the afternoon, maybe 1:00 or 2:00, when the postman comes by.  And the idea—and they‘re hearing it right now—that it won‘t be there, that they have to go back to whatever they might have in the bank, if they‘ve got anything, is real.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  Indeed.  You know, another thing that this whole discussion does—and President Obama‘s remarks about Social Security—is it really shines a bright light on the participants in this negotiation, and I think the American public can see pretty clearly who are the adults in the room here.

I mean, we all know that the debt ceiling is raised almost automatically.  It happened seven times during the Bush administration.  This is usually—politics gets played with it a little bit, yes, but nobody has ever, you know, held it as like a gun to somebody‘s head and really threatened to destroy the credit of the United States.  But now it is happening.

And they see President Obama, as he said, bending over backwards, doubling down on John Boehner‘s $2 trillion—I‘ll see that and raise you another $2 trillion, John, if that‘s what you want.  But of course, it never—nothing is ever good enough for the Republicans.  Whatever Obama does, it‘s going to be—

MATTHEWS:  OK—

REAGAN:  -- wrong and they‘re going to say no.

MATTHEWS:  And as you point out, there‘s an escalation here.  When we heard Boehner, who is a responsible man when he‘s doing what he believes is right, not what the Tea Party wants as right, he accepts this co-governance.  Let‘s watch him here, and also Mike Pence, who‘s going to run for governor, who‘s basically joined the Tea Party and left the regular Republican Party—talking about it not being their problem but the president‘s problem that we have this debt ceiling crunch coming.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  We passed our budget back in the spring, outlined our priorities.  Where‘s the budget‘s—where‘s the president‘s plan?  When‘s he going to lay his cards on the table?  This—this debt limit increase is his problem, and I think it‘s time for him to lead by putting his plan on the table, something that the Congress can pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  When the U.S. government can‘t pay its bills, it‘s not only a debt problem, but it is a failure of leadership at the presidential level, just as you said.  The truth is, it‘s the president‘s problem.  If President Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling, he should recognize it‘s—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The gentleman‘s time has expired.

PENCE:  -- his responsibility, it‘s his problem, and come to the Congress and ask us to step forward and help him solve that problem—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The gentleman‘s time has expired.

PENCE:  -- by cutting spending now, capping spending, and sending a balanced budget amendment to the states!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  This reminds me, Gene, and it probably reminds you, Ron, as well, of 13 days, when Curtis LeMay looked at the president, John Kennedy, and said, You got a big problem here.  For the speaker of the House to be so consumed by the mentality, the choreography now of the Tea Party is scary.  I mean, these guys are almost wearing uniforms out there on the floor.  They come out on the floor—there‘s what, there‘s 87 Republican freshmen, 60 Tea Party members, all loyal to the Tea Party factions, to Bachmann and people like that, who have said—Bachmann herself has said, I won‘t vote for anything in terms of a debt ceiling.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  So you‘ve—so you‘ve got that block.  You‘ve got John Boehner, whose idea of this grand bargain was—in the first place, he went to the president and they cooked up this $4 trillion savings plan that would raise the debt ceiling, and so forth.  But now Boehner is having to cover his flank and try to regain control of his caucus.

MATTHEWS:  OK—

ROBINSON:  It‘s very clear—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s calling the shots here?  Gene, you cover this.  Who‘s calling the shots?  Who is meeting behind the closed doors and telling Boehner, No, no, you can‘t have a grand deal.  No, no, you can‘t talk revenues.  No, no.  Come back and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and keep coming back?

ROBINSON:  Well, my opinion, Eric Cantor, I think, is working in the interests of—

MATTHEWS:  And who‘s—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  -- he working for, though, and who is he bowing to?

ROBINSON:  Well, he‘s in touch with the Tea Party faction.  He‘s in touch with the—

MATTHEWS:  Kevin McCarthy and the whole bunch of them.

ROBINSON:  Well, Kevin McCarthy, I think, is somebody that Boehner

goes to and that Boehner—and I think Kevin McCarthy is one of the ones

who called Boehner, Look, I don‘t have the votes.  You don‘t have the votes

--

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Gotcha.

ROBINSON:  -- and you‘re about to lose your caucus.

MATTHEWS:  So this is a strange situation.  I want to look right now -

and Ron, let‘s go right after this right now.  Let‘s talk—let‘s get the latest here.  It seems to me there‘s a pattern here, a choreography.  You once danced for a living.  Let‘s talk about choreography, Ron.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  All right!

MATTHEWS:  I know you‘re a proud dancer.  Let me ask you—it seems like the person directing this theater here is not John Boehner.  It certainly isn‘t the president.  It may be somebody off-stage.  But somebody is saying, first of all, pull out of meetings.  There has become this new kind of walk-out strategy.  You know—I‘m trying to think of all the people that have walked out.

REAGAN:  Take the ball and go home.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN:  Eric Cantor—

MATTHEWS:  Go ahead.

REAGAN:  Eric—the subtext—isn‘t the subtext underneath all of this stuff Cantor versus Boehner?  Isn‘t Cantor trying to do to Boehner what Republicans are trying to do to the Democrats and Obama, box him into a corner, into a no-win situation where nothing—

MATTHEWS:  Well, why is he doing it?

REAGAN:  -- he does is—

MATTHEWS:  He‘s a rational man.  Why is he doing it?

REAGAN:  Because he wants Boehner‘s job!  He wants Boehner‘s job.

MATTHEWS:  Is that all?

REAGAN:  He wants to be—well, he might want something more.  There might be an ideological component, too.  But he wants Boehner‘s job.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at this.  In a closed-door meeting with House Republican caucus today, Speaker Boehner tried to walk himself back off the reports he‘d agreed to cutting a big deal with Obama.  He said, in part, “Let me be crystal clear on this.  At no time ever during this discussion did I agree to let taxes go up.  I haven‘t spent 20 years here fighting tax increases just to throw it all away in one moment.  It became clear that their”—that‘s the Democrats‘ -- “vision of tax reform was to maintain many of the current code‘s flawed features.  That‘s when I walked away.”

It‘s really almost like recantation in a medieval church, isn‘t it?

ROBINSON:  Damage—damage control.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON:  It‘s damage control.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ROBINSON:  You know, I have sinned—

MATTHEWS:  Yes!

ROBINSON:  -- I shall sin no more.  It—but he was—

MATTHEWS:  Well, who‘s he confessing to?

ROBINSON:  -- losing his caucus.  He‘s the speaker of the House, and he‘s losing the Republican caucus.  It‘s that simple.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

ROBINSON:  And he may think he has lost the Republican caucus—

MATTHEWS:  OK, I—

ROBINSON:  -- and has to—has to perform these—these—

MATTHEWS:  Gentlemen, I think I know I can go back to who is the high priestess or the high priest of this Tea Party caucus, Michele Bachmann.  I think she‘s a true believer.  Whatever you think she believes, I think it‘s her belief.  I don‘t think she‘s faking it.  I think she‘s for real.

I want to show you something now on O‘Reilly, which is where you go when you want to speak their religion, when you want to do the whole thing with the vestments on and everything.  When you (INAUDIBLE) far right, I think you go over to Bill and check out—here‘s Michele Bachmann—

REAGAN:  I can almost smell the incense!

MATTHEWS:  -- the U.S. congressman—well, I know, smells and bells, your dad used to say.  Here we go now to a new—this is from the IRS.  She, of course, worked for the IRS from ‘88 to ‘92.  She‘s gone through a conversion.  She‘s now a champion of the anti-tax Tea Party.  She used to work for the devil, now she‘s against him.  Here she was last night on Fox, home base for this kind of thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What I can tell you is what I‘m hearing all over Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Texas.  Wherever I go across the country, people are saying to me, Michele, these politicians don‘t get it.  We can‘t keep raising the debt ceiling.  And that‘s why I‘m adamant about it because that‘s what reasonable, fair-minded Americans are saying, Bill.

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  OK—

BACHMANN:  They‘re saying the politicians have to stop the spending, and they don‘t for a minute appreciate it when President Obama is talking about the NFL lockout and telling small businesses to eat their peas and suck it in and have more tax increases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I love that!  How do you read that scene between Bill O‘Reilly, who‘s heard it all, who‘s a little cynical occasionally, and this absolute true believer?

ROBINSON:  She is a true believer.  I‘ve always said she‘s a true believer.  She—and you know, she is a part of—yes, who‘s running the show?  She‘s a part of it, but it‘s not just her.  It‘s the others like her.  And—

MATTHEWS:  And what‘s her philosophy?

ROBINSON:  And it‘s their constituents out there who are telling them, Don‘t raise the debt ceiling.  Just default and—and—

MATTHEWS:  Just let the government go down.

ROBINSON:  Right.  Well, they have this fantasy that you can just pay the interest, or it‘s OK—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s a balloon (ph) (INAUDIBLE)

ROBINSON:  -- if the federal government—if the U.S. government—

MATTHEWS:  Oh!

ROBINSON:  -- cuts 44 percent of its spending in a day.  They think that‘s OK.

MATTHEWS:  OK, here‘s—

ROBINSON:  That‘s not OK for the world!

MATTHEWS:  OK—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me be Bill O‘Reilly.  I got my hand up like Bill O‘Reilly right now.  You see my hand?  That‘s a Bill O‘Reilly move right now.

It seems to me that they don‘t mind catastrophe.  To put it bluntly, if they bet wrong on this and we go into default and the checks don‘t go out, then they hold a big cotillion meeting and they say, See?  We told you the government‘s irresponsible, this president‘s incompetent.  We‘ve made our point.  They—it‘s a win-win for them.  If they win the argument and bring down the government, they have really won big casino here.

ROBINSON:  That‘s right.

REAGAN:  I don‘t know about that.  I don‘t know that they win.  I think the American public sees through this.  And again, they see who the adults are here.  And let me throw this out to you, too, and see—you guys are smarter than I am about this kind of stuff.  All right, so there are three main elements here—

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear my voice—

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN:  I did.  But spending cuts, tax increases and the debt ceiling being raised.  They don‘t agree on spending cuts.  They don‘t agree on tax increases.  But at least Boehner pays lip service to the debt ceiling having to be raised.  So that‘s the only thing they both agree on.  At the end of the day, do we get to a point where they just have to raise the debt ceiling and nothing else?  And wasn‘t that President Obama‘s original position?

MATTHEWS:  A pure bill?  A clean bill.

REAGAN:  A pure bill, clean bill.  Absolutely.  Because there‘s nothing else they can do.  There‘s nothing to negotiate.  They won‘t negotiate—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  As they said in “Man for All Seasons,” let me put to you a middle case.  Suppose they come back with a real light thing, some spending cuts that really don‘t mean anything, no real revenue increases, but it looks like something like a little at least lip service to it, and they put that on the president‘s desk.  (INAUDIBLE) they pass it out of the House.  What happens then?

REAGAN:  Well, if you‘re not raising the debt ceiling enough to carry it through 2013, I think he vetoes it.  However, if they do a three-month extension that‘s clean, I think he has to sign it then.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Gene?

ROBINSON:  I think—

MATTHEWS:  Is that sticking it to him?

ROBINSON:  I think he has to sign a clean extension.  I think if it‘s an extension with deep budget cuts, I think he vetoes it.  He has said there‘s no way forward unless they move off the “No new taxes” pledge.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you.  When those checks stop going out August 3rd, I‘m telling you, August 2nd, watch out.  The public will be watching then.  Every single American will be watching programs like this.  Thank you, Eugene Robinson.  And thank you, Ron Reagan.

REAGAN:  Thanks, Chris.

Coming up: Michele Bachmann is facing some heat over the clinic run by her husband.  This is very controversial, and we‘re going to handle it that way.  Marcus Bachmann runs a clinic that promises to cure gays—that‘s the word they use—of homosexuality through prayer.  Let‘s see.  That‘s coming up next.

And in California today, first lady Michelle Obama is with Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and Nancy Reagan at the funeral for former first lady Betty Ford.  We‘ll have much more on Betty Ford later in the hour.  Of course, I‘ll have a final thought on that great woman later on myself.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, an outspoken voice on the progressive left is making some noise now.  Alan Grayson, a former congressman who famously said the Republicans‘ health care plan was to “die quickly” says he‘s running for Congress again.  Grayson served one term in the House and was defeated last year.  He says he‘s waiting to see how Florida redraws its congressional districts before deciding where he‘ll run.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

New questions out tonight about Michele Bachmann‘s husband and tactics allegedly used to “cure” gays at the family‘s clinic have emerged after an undercover investigation into Bachmann and Associates‘ use of the controversial treatment.  It broke last night.  Will this ultimately—this revelation ultimately hurt Michele Bachmann‘s presidential campaign?  We‘ll see.

Joining us is now is Evan Hurst, the social media director for Truth Wins Out, a group responsible for the undercover video, and Michelle Goldberg, who‘s covering the story for the Daily Beast and “Newsweek.”

Michelle, give us a wrap-up quickly to people who don‘t know about this group called Bachmann and Associates and what it does with people who are gay who come in for what they call treatment. 

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST:  Well, there‘s long been reports that Bachmann and Associates practices ex-gay therapy or sometimes called reparative therapy, which is a really dangerous and discredited technique designed to basically turn gay people straight through prayer and through techniques like practicing their masculinity and trying to develop sexual attractions to the opposite sex in various ways. 

So, there‘s been this—these rumors have been around for a while.  Marcus Bachmann has explicitly denied them in the past.  Now there‘s proof that this is what he was doing, which was always pretty clear.  Both Bachmanns have always been pretty clear that they believe that homosexuality is a disorder that can be cured. 

Now there‘s undercover video showing a therapist in this clinic doing just that. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at Marcus Bachmann, husband to Michele Bachmann, the U.S. congresswoman, last year talking about homosexuality and his views thereon.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What do you say when your teenager says she‘s gay? 

MARCUS BACHMANN, HUSBAND OF MICHELE BACHMANN:  There‘s that curiosity.  It is as if we have to understand barbarians need to be educated.  They need to be disciplined.  And just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn‘t mean that we‘re supposed to go down that road. 

We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Evan Hurst on that. 

That was a kind of—a lot of people will hear that as a strange way of saying anything, but in this case saying that if you feel your gay, you think you‘re gay, you may not be, because of what?  Take us from there, Evan Hurst.

EVAN HURST, TRUTH WINS OUT:  Well, basically, what they say is that what you feel about yourself isn‘t necessarily true. 

The thing about people like the Bachmanns and all the ex-gay people around the country is that all of these ministries say, well, our religious beliefs are absolute truth.  So, instead of trying to align those with science or make them coexist or anything like that, they‘re going to tell you that their religious beliefs are absolute truth and that you have to conform yourself to that. 

So, yes, you may feel you‘re gay.  You may have known you were gay ever since you were 12 years old.  But, no, you‘re not really gay,, according to these people.  And apparently you‘re a barbarian and have to be reeducated.  So -- 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s look at the undercover video you took from a reparative counseling session, it‘s called, at Bachmann and Associates. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The truth is God, God has designed—he designed our eyes to be attracted to the woman, the woman‘s body -- 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sure. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to be attracted to, you know, everything, you know, to be attracted to her breasts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of that session?  We could show a longer tape, but what would we see if we saw more of that, Evan? 

HURST:  You would see him going more and more into the idea of, you know, men being made to be attracted to women‘s bodies and all of that stuff. 

It‘s basically a slow kind of process where they just convince you more and more that what you really are and who you really are is evil.  And it‘s really sick, because a lot of the people who come into those kinds of programs, they come in from a perspective of already being told in some way by their family or church or society that they are sick, and this just reinforces that even more. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go back to Michelle, who‘s reporting on this. 

Michelle, objectively speaking, I guess most people would say—and if I have—I have talked to a number of people who are gay and they will tell you that they knew it fairly early on.  We can argue about nurture and nature, that, for the rest of our lives.  I don‘t think that‘s a fruitful discussion perhaps. 

But what—here‘s a statement from the authorities, from the American Psychological Association, disavowing what we‘re talking about here, reparative therapy, back in ‘97, 14 years ago—quote—“Our concern with reparative therapy is that a person, especially a young person, who enters into therapy to deal with issues of sexual orientation should be able to have the expectation that such therapy would take place in a professionally neutral environment, absent of any societal bias.”

That‘s not the case here, is it, Michelle? 

GOLDBERG:  Well, yes.

And you can actually find an even stronger statement from the American Psychiatric Association, which says that this kind of therapy leads to increased self-hatred and even self-harm.  There‘s a lot of evidence that it can lead to increased suicidal ideation, and there‘s a lot of evidence that it doesn‘t work. 

There‘s a whole lot of ex-ex-gays out there, people who claim to be ex-gay at one point and then later disavowed the whole thing and said that, you know, they had never really been free of their attractions.  Just think about how hard it would be for you, for a straight person to turn themselves gay to get an idea of how, you know, immutable this stuff is. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  And so—

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s—let‘s—let‘s talk to Michelle just before I go back to Evan about the politics of this thing. 

Is your sense that this is a commonly held view among fundamentalist Christians?  Is this a broadly held view that—that being gay is something that sort of comes from something that went wrong in your life or something and that you can fix it because it‘s something that you picked up along the way that you shouldn‘t have picked up, not something that you had an orientation to? 

GOLDBERG:  Yes.  No, I think that it‘s kind of integral to their whole world view, in the same way that they‘re in denial about things like evolution, in the same way there‘s a lot of climate science denial.

They have to believe that this is an illness or a disorder or a choice, because, otherwise, their position on gay rights and on gay marriage would just be sheer bigotry.  And nobody wants to see themselves as a bigot.  I don‘t think they do see themselves as bigots.

They see themselves as wanting to help people who are broken. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s take a look at—

GOLDBERG:  And, yes, look, Tim Pawlenty himself has refused to say that homosexuality is natural or that it‘s inborn. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because he‘s—I guess he‘s probably thinking he‘s taking a moderate position, because he hasn‘t said directly that somehow you picked it up because you chose it. 

That‘s a relatively moderate view these days, by the way, on the right. 

Here‘s Michele Bachmann responding, the congresswoman, responding to questions about her husband‘s clinic just yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  What is your opinion on reparative therapy, and is it something that is conducted at that center? 

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, I‘m running for the presidency of the United States.  And I‘m here today to talk about job creation and also the fact that we do have a business that deals with job creation.  We‘re very proud of the business that we have created. 

QUESTION:  But, of course, the issue today is about this reparative therapy and what this hidden camera video caught.  And their opinions are going to be aired on tonight‘s news.

And you have—you don‘t want to comment on that and give your side? 

MICHELE BACHMANN:  Well, I‘m here to talk about my run for the presidency of the United States.  As I said, again, we‘re very proud of our business and we‘re proud of all job creators in the United States.  That‘s what people really care about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back to Evan. 

I have had some experience trying to interview the congresswoman.  I know what happens.  I have kidded her, I guess, rather forcefully that she‘s under hypnosis -- 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: -- although, this time, I think he‘s under the guidance of Ed Rollins and she‘s—or someone.  And she‘s clearly disciplined herself to the point where she‘s not going to talk about this stuff. 

Is it your sense, Evan—

HURST:  She doesn‘t want to talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re an activist.  Why do you think it is relevant?  Make the case.  Why is it relevant that—that her family‘s involved in this business, if you will, of trying to make not just people—about creating jobs, but creating straights, if you will?

HURST:  Yes.  It is a business, first of all.  And it‘s not only a business, Chris, but it‘s consumer fraud. 

And the truth of the matter is that, you know, what‘s important about this story is that people like Michele Bachmann—and she‘s obviously not the only one—but they‘re going to say certain things to their base, because this kind of thing actually—you know, you asked before, do her true believers really believe this?

Of course they do.  They actually—they don‘t think they‘re bigots and they actually think they‘re helping.  But, you know, that‘s just not the case.  And science says that‘s not the case. 

But what‘s important about this, Chris, is that she‘s going to say—try to say one thing to the base.  And then, when she gets confronted in an interview like that, she‘s going try to get rid of the question or make it go away because she‘s trying to play all different sides of this right now.

And people need to know that, you know, we have over 50 percent support for marriage equality now in this country, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

HURST:  It‘s—it‘s not a—

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I know the country is changing its mind.  I talk about it all the time, Evan.  And I agree with you.

HURST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  The country is changing rapidly. 

Let me go back to Michelle for the reporting on this.

It seems to me the danger here, if you‘re looking at this critically, is that there‘s a whole panel here of people on the right trying to defend an ideology or a religion point of view—religious point of view against evidence that‘s commonsense and nature. 

The idea that this planet, or people living on this planet, it‘s only 5,000 or 6,000 years old, against millions of years of evidence of life on this planet, all kinds of evidence of dinosaurs they erase, all kinds of evidence of evolution, I mean, why do we test on animals when we‘re doing medical tests if they‘re not somehow related to us physiologically somehow?  Why would we do these tests? 

There‘s so much evidence and common sense about people who know gay people who really do believe in their heart that that‘s who they are and that‘s who God—how God made them, to be blunt. 

And so why—I do see a dangerous pattern here of fighting reality, and I don‘t know anybody who would want somebody who is president of the United States who doesn‘t live in the real world. 

Your thoughts on this.  Last thought for you, Michelle. 

GOLDBERG:  Well, I think that that‘s been the kind of most important story about the right and increasingly about the Republican Party of the last decade or so, has been the construction of an entire parallel reality and the attempt to force the real world to conform to it and force the rest of us to live in it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GOLDBERG:  You see that with their own kind of economic theories about the debt limit.  You know, it‘s no longer a discussion about opinions and policies.  It‘s about two sets of facts, one of which has been kind of entirely constructed to support an ideology. 

MATTHEWS:  And it‘s what we‘re fighting in the world, this fundamentalism, this Talibanism, this jihadism, this purity of thought that requires the universe to adapt to what you believe it should be.  And it can get dangerous. 

A lot of suicides come out of this kind of stuff, obviously.  We don‘t need to make people feel worse.  We should make them feel better. 

HURST:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Evan Hurst—

(CROSSTALK)

HURST:  And we have already have a problem with that.

MATTHEWS:  You mentioned that. 

Thank you so much. 

Michelle Goldberg, thank you as well for reporting this story to us for “Newsweek” and The Daily Beast. 

GOLDBERG:  Thanks.

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Arnold Schwarzenegger gets back in the saddle.  He‘s making cowboy movies, you know, the new kind, the sci-fi kind, up in “Sideshow.” 

And watching HARDBALL, that is what you‘re doing, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up:  It could be worse. 

On Wednesday‘s—or actually yesterday‘s “Daily Show,” John Oliver explained that out-of-control phone scandal involving Britain‘s “News of the World.”  Check it out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”:  Can‘t your prime minister or anybody do—

JOHN OLIVER, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  The prime minister, Jon?  The prime minister, is that what you‘re talking about? 

STEWART:  Yes. 

OLIVER:  David Cameron, the prime minister, leader of new England?

STEWART:  Right. 

OLIVER:  Oh, funny story about him, Jon.  The former editor of the “News of the World,” Andy Coulson, the one who presided at the paper at the height of some its most egregious hacking scandals and later resigned in disgrace, was hired by none other than, wait for it—you are going to love it.

STEWART:  No.  No.  No.

OLIVER:  Yes.  Yes.  David Cameron.

STEWART:  No.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) No!  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) No! 

(CROSSTALK)          

STEWART:  Oh, my God!

OLIVER:  Let me just ask you this, Jon.  Do you feel any better about America yet? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  I—you know what‘s weird? 

OLIVER:  What‘s that? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  I actually do. 

OLIVER:  That‘s great. 

STEWART:  I feel kind of good now. 

OLIVER:  And that means that my work here is done. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thomas Jefferson once said he had—if he had to choose between a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he‘d choose the latter.  Well, despite the horror show going on in Britain, I‘m still with Mr. Jefferson. 

Next up:  A reporter gets a little too close to the story.  “The Arizona Republic”‘s Richard Ruelas went to state Senator Lori Klein‘s for a story on gun ownership.  Well, the state senator is a big Second Amendment advocate.  And at that point, Ruelas said that Klein pulled out a pink loaded pistol and pointed the weapon‘s laser at his chest.  He said she told him not to worry since she didn‘t have her hand on the trigger. 

Well, after the story was published, Klein said she didn‘t point the gun at Ruelas and that he himself sat down in front of it. 

Whatever happened, can we all agree that loaded guns shouldn‘t be part of the interview process?

Now, moving to Hollywood, Arnold Schwarzenegger gets back in the saddle.  The former governor of California has just signed on to his first post-scandal project, a Western action film, a sci-fi film, “The Last Stand.”  Shooting on the movie is scheduled to start in September. 

I wish him luck.  Actually, I really did like “True Lies.” 

Up next:  The Rupert Murdoch scandal keeps getting bigger.  Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Murdoch‘s people used known criminals to access his health and banking records and tried to bring down his government.  How far is this going to go? 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Milissa Rehberger. 

Here‘s what‘s happening. 

President Obama presented the nation‘s highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor, to Army Sergeant Leroy Petry.  He lost his hand while throwing away an enemy grenade in Afghanistan in 2008, saving two other Rangers.

Meanwhile, the White House is condemning in the strongest possible terms the assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s half-brother by a member of his own extended family. 

Back here at home, Mississippi‘s attorney general is suing the administrator of BP‘s $20 billion oil spill fund, accusing him of deliberately denying and delaying legitimate claims. 

Authorities in Florida are deciding whether to file perjury charges against Casey Anthony‘s mother, Cindy, after she took the stand in her daughter‘s defense. 

Another rocky day on Wall Street—the markets ended lower after Moody‘s downgraded Ireland‘s debt rating to junk status. 

And Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of “Gilligan‘s Island” and “The Brady Bunch,” has died in Los Angeles.  He was 94 -- back to HARDBALL. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Well, “The News of the World” scandal went all the way to the top today as Rupert Murdoch, his son James and his top deputy, Rebekah Brooks, the paper‘s former editor, all summoned to appear next week before a British parliamentary committee.

Last night, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown alleged that “News of the World” had used known criminals to access his private records, his phone and his banking records.  He also described his reaction to the 2006 “Sun” newspaper report that revealed his son had had cystic fibrosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:  In tears.  Your son is now going to be broadcast across the media.  Sarah and I were incredibly upset about it.  We‘re thinking about his future.  We‘re thinking about our family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, joining us now is CNBC‘s Simon Hobbs and “Vanity Fair” contributor Michael Wolff, who wrote the “Adweek” cover story on the embattled Murdoch empire.

Simon, I want you to just give us an update.  For those who haven‘t been catching up to this matter in Britain right now, what have been the evil infractions by the Murdoch empire in this case?

SIMON HOBBS, CNBC:  Well, they just keep rolling and rolling.  I mean, the revelations go on and on.  I think the one that really caught people‘s attention, one it was revealed that they‘d actually hacked into a 13-year-old girl who had gone missing and in fact had been murdered.  And it is alleged that they actually went through and deleted some of the messages on her phone in order that more could be received.  That they could then potentially report on in the press.

The revulsion in the U.K. is at particular stage, Chris, is at full tilt at the moment, and the big news overnight, the big news tonight in the U.K., is now the government is going to side with the opposition to actually hurt Murdoch where it really does hurt and that in his business interests.  They are going to have a session at parliament tomorrow where they will attempt to suggest that he should withdraw from the $14 billion the bid for the 61 percent that he doesn‘t own in Britain‘s main pay TV distributor, BSkyB.

So, that‘s the breaking news that we have at the moment.

MATTHEWS:  Michael Wolff, is this Stalingrad for Murdoch?  Is this like the beginning of the moment, that moment where something happens and you stop growing, you‘re thrown back on your imperial purposes and you never quite expand again?  In fact, you begin to contract?  Is this that important?  What‘s going on here?

MICHAEL WOLFF, VANITY FAIR:  Well, Chris, that‘s well said.  Yes, this is implosion at the highest level.

I frankly and I think—I think this is certainly the growing analysis in the U.K. is that there‘s no way that this company and the Murdoch family can continue to run their business in the United Kingdom.  That they have, in a very short period of time, although I should point out this scandal has been going on for five year, but in the last week, they basically have come to a moment where they have lost their credibility, almost the entirety of it.

MATTHEWS:  Are they in or out when it comes to the establishment?

WOLFF:  Well, they are—they are out, but what they‘ve done is they‘ve replaced the establishment.  I mean, Rupert Murdoch is certainly the most—the most powerful private citizen in the U.K.  He has been—and actually I think throughout the U.K., the U.K., and Australia, you can say about Rupert Murdoch, that he has held power far longer than anyone in our time.  That includes all politicians and all businessmen.

This is, Rupert mogul, yes, that‘s what I meant to say.  Rupert Murdoch is the mogul of our era.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go back, let me go back to Simon on that—and in this country, we know him as owner of FOX and also “The Wall Street Journal.”  He‘s certainly powerful.  He offers himself up as a counterbalance to what he sees as, I guess, the liberal establishment in this country, the non-conservative establishment.  He‘s the balancing act, if you will.

Is that what he is worldwide?  Is that who Rupert Murdoch is?

HOBBS:  Chris, in the U.K., he was the king maker.  There‘s a famous headline which I think demonstrates it.  Nineteen years, after the 1992 election, when the conservatives were brought back into power, many people didn‘t think that happen, he demonstrated the power that he felt he had with a headline in his daily newspaper, “The Sun,” which said basically, they were the one who won it.  It was through that paper that they had persuaded the British people to reelect the conservatives.  And ever since then, the politicians, particularly on the left, have despised Rupert Murdoch, partly because he broke the labor unions within the printing arena, but also because of the power that he had.

But despite the fact that they despised him, they still had to get in bed with him politically in order that they could perhaps win election through the power of what he was doing.  Tony Blair, very famously, when a lot of things were happening, a lot of things to distract him, he actually flew to Australia to stand there with Rupert Murdoch‘s other editors in order to present himself, if you like, as a sacrificial lamb to whatever they were discussing at the time in order that they would document (ph) the next general election, and the left wing is really, Chris, putting the boot in now because they‘ve finally got a chance, particularly on the ground.

MATTHEWS:  Michael, let‘s talk about hypocrisy here.  Is Gordon Brown hitting him when he‘s down?

WOLFF:  I‘m—geez, he—Murdoch hit Gordon Brown pretty hard.  Actually, but the very curious thing here is that Murdoch likes Gordon Brown.  He likes him, actually much better than David Cameron.  So, it was his son and Rebekah Brooks that convinced him he ought to come around and support David Cameron.

But Gordon Brown is Rupert Murdoch‘s friend.  Not to mention—

MATTHEWS:  Well, why was he bugging him?  Why was he cutting in—sort of hacking into his bank accounts and his phone and all that stuff?

WOLFF:  Well, because I mean, Rupert Murdoch, I would dare was saying, was not doing it, but it was done by his reporters and it was done by Rebekah Brooks, actually, the woman who he is now defending.

MATTHEWS:  Well, wouldn‘t you think if he had all that clout within his empire, he‘d tell them, “Hands off my friend”?

WOLFF:  Well, let me explain something about Rupert Murdoch‘s empire. 

This is a family business.  And in a way, this is the crux of this story.  His son James has been running the management of this, has been running the British side of the company, has been—has been managing this scandal for the last number of years.

Rupert is, let‘s remember, 80 years old.  His family has taken more and more power, and—you know, I think what we see now is that they well may not have been up to the—up to the task.

HOBBS:  You know, I disagree.  I mean, Michael may have inside information who is friends with whom.  But in public, there was no way in which Murdoch or his paper was supporting Brown.  Brown appears to be a very angry man.  This is a guy that was kicked out of power, one of the most unpopular politicians in the United Kingdom.

And for him to now sit here with his drawn face discussing what was

going on when he was in power, as if he was in some way hurt, or although -

-

           

MATTHEWS:  OK.

HOBBS: -- some misdemeanor against him, he was in power.  He was the prime minister.  Why didn‘t he sort it out?  Why didn‘t the curb the power of Rupert Murdoch?

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFF:  Yes.  But that‘s a remote question.  That‘s not the issue. 

This is, his—his phone was hacked, his medical records were also hacked.  And you have to remember this, these—the Murdoch people, the Murdoch reporters, “The News the World” reporters, were capable of holding anyone at any level of power in the country hostage.

HOBBS:  They knew for years.  They knew for years that this sort of stuff was going on.  It‘s just so happened that it was the ordinary people in the street and they didn‘t really care.  They knew.  They must have known how people got the information that they did.

How did they get an exclusive day by day by day?  People knew that, Michael, believe me, they knew that was going on.

WOLFF:  Well, yes, absolutely.  But look what‘s happened here.  Rupert Murdoch had these newspapers.  It didn‘t matter that you knew how they got it.  Rupert Murdoch had a weapon and the weapon was these newspapers.

You could say what you want—

MATTHEWS:  OK.

WOLFF: -- they would still print.

MATTHEWS:  We‘re looking at the power of Rupert Murdoch across the Atlantic.

Let‘s talk about this power here when we come back with Simon Hobbs and Michael Wolff—right back on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul says he‘s not running to keep his seat in the House of Representatives so he can focus his energy on his long-shot presidential campaign.  The 12-term Texas congressman says he‘s been criticized in the past for running for Congress and the White House at the same time.  He says he‘s gotten more support for his presidential bid.  This time around, he wants to focus exclusively on the race.  This is Congressman Paul‘s third campaign for president.

Well be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with CNBC‘s Simon Hobbs and “Vanity Fair‘s” Michael Wolff.

Simon, tell us about the impact, do you think, of the Murdoch scandal here in the United States.

HOBBS:  Well, what everybody is really interested in is, will it hit those FCC licenses that he has for FOX?  What the guy is going to do is he‘s going to shed people.  He‘s going to shed Les Hilton, we think, the COO of Dow Jones, owner of the “Wall Street Journal,” who‘s been a loyal employees for 50 (ph) years.

MATTHEWS:  He sure has.

HOBBS:  But, of course, he was in charge of some of those U.K.  businesses.

There is speculation he might get rid of some of those operations in the U.K. as well, the newspapers.  But it‘s those FCC licenses, Chris, can they make it stick over here?  Is he a fit and proper person, is the question here in the United States, giving what‘s happening in the U.K.

MATTHEWS:  Michael Wolff, running for our viewership and for your readership, what‘s the impact here?

WOLFF:  The impact is huge.  I don‘t think end of day that people named Murdoch can run this company.  I think what we‘re going to see is this—I actually disagree that it will be a licensing issue.  It will be a governance issue.

What you have is a company in which the people who run it, it‘s a public company, but the people who run it are nevertheless not accountable.  And that‘s what -- 

MATTHEWS:  Will the Saudis push him out?

WOLFF:  Excuse me?  Say that again.

MATTHEWS:  Will the Saudis and the other people on the board, the people with big shares, push him out?

WOLFF:  Well, I think yes.  I mean, I think that‘s what‘s going to happen is that the larger shareholders, the Saudis, notably, will begin to question—question the Murdochs should be running this company.

MATTHEWS:  Good question.  Thank you so much for raising it. And thank you, Michael, especially for raising it, and, Simon Hobbs.  You‘re both great.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with my thoughts about former first lady Betty Ford and what she represents: candor, courage and hope.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with the first lady brave enough to be Betty Ford.

The phrase itself “Betty Ford” is with us today as an admission that we need such a place, many of us.  She‘s at Betty Ford, he‘s checked into Betty Ford.  It‘s a haven for people with reality biting at their heels, people with addictions.  People keep doing the same thing expecting different results, so one bad day they decide, I need help.  I need to go to Betty Ford.

Before she was a place of haven and help, Betty Ford was a real live person with problems of her own.  Her husband, her family had done an intervention.  All of them have come and told her she need to something about her drinking and her addiction to prescription drugs or she‘d destroy all that honesty and goodness within her.

Look, I know something of this, enough to this to know what I‘m talking about.  Drinking has gotten the better of a lot of good people, very good people.

Betty Ford now is a code phrase for the fact that there comes a time and there is a place when and where you can deal with such problems.

I knew President Ford a bit.  He was else open to doing an interview with me, because he was a friend with my old boss, Tip O‘Neill, real friends, the kind they had in Congress in the old days, across the aisle friends.  He was a good guy, and I have to think a good husband.

Betty must have been something.  You heard the things she said in interviews, her openness about homosexuality, about abortion, about cancer, and even her or marital relations with Jerry.  And they were Republicans, of course, she and her husband—not Tea Partiers, Republicans.  They believed in government, less government to be sure, but what government can do for this country.  They did what they could for America.

And that meant, in her case, for individual Americans, people with real lives to lead, sometimes real challenges.  And she gave them hope.  Her name Betty Ford is a name for that hope.

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

More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.

           

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