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updated 8/11/2011 5:06:18 PM ET 2011-08-11T21:06:18

Guests: Howard Fineman, Amanda Drury, Ed Schultz, John Heilemann, Susan Page, Ron Reagan, Sandy Pasch, Steve McMahon, David Brody

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Reprieve.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Make the Republicans say no to jobs in their home
towns. As if we needed another reason for the president to do something,
the Dow up 243 points at one point today, but when the Fed announced that
economic growth was slower than expected, the Dow plummeted, then surged
spectacularly again. The Dow ended the day up nearly 430 points, but the
up-down day on Wall Street was just another sign of how skittish the
markets are about the economy.

And that`s just another reason I say President Obama needs to come up
with a jobs program, needs to highlight the bridges and roads that need
fixing in this country and then make Republican say, No, I don`t want jobs
in my district. The question isn`t whether President Obama should do it or
how. I`m telling him how. Show the bridges, show the rotten roads, show
the broken-down sewer and water systems. Put it in their faces. The
question`s when.

Also, the political fallout. We`ve had three straight wave elections
now. Americans are angry at everyone, they say, from the president on
down, but voters historically have thrown out just one party, not both. If
there`s another wave election next year, who`s going to get drowned?

Plus, is President Obama about to run a Bush-style "Swift Boat"
campaign? Politico reports that the president`s team has decided Mr.
Romney`s numbers are so weak -- Mr. Obama`s numbers are so weak that the
only way to win next time will be to destroy the likely challenger, who
they believe is Mitt Romney. Has "hope and change" been replaced by "dig
up and destroy"?

And on Wisconsin -- in fact, on Wisconsin. democrats get their chance
to get even with anti-labor Republican governor Scott Walker today. Six
Republican state senators face recalls tonight, and if the Democrats can
pick up three seats out there out of six, they will regain control of the
state senate in Wisconsin. This is more than a local fight. This is the
first big fight politically of the 2012 electoral cycle.

And on a day that President Obama was at Dover Air Force Base as the
bodies of those Navy SEALs were brought home, "Let Me Finish" tonight with
some big questions about our mission in Afghanistan. I can`t think of a
better time to ask, What exactly is it?

We start with what the president should be doing about jobs. Howard
Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and the Huffington Post Media Group
editorial director. And John Heilemann is "New York" magazine`s national
political columnist.

Two heavyweights on right now. The Dow Jones, of course, rallied
today, about a two-thirds reprieve, Howard. And I guess my question is
about jobs.

It seems to me that the president has a couple things he`s got to do
to get control of events and not just watch them, which he seems to be
doing. One is get control of the debt debate by talking honestly about
what cuts need to be made and what taxes need to be raised.

Let`s move off from that tonight. Let`s talk about the jobs program
he needs to push for right now. It seems to me that, mainly, it`s a
political challenge for right now, to get the attention of the Republicans,
force them to deal with the jobs issue, force them, if necessary, to say
yes or no to creating jobs in their own districts. History, common sense
tells us it`s hard for a politician to say no to a job site in his own or
her own district.

How does he do it, Howard? You and I know politics. Doesn`t the
president know politics?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t think he knows
it the way you know it in this context, Chris, which is that you`ve got to
be specific. The stimulus package that famously was enacted at the
beginning of President Obama`s term did some good things, but it was more
like spraying water in the desert, as opposed to dropping each drop of
water on each seed, and that`s what needs to happen.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: Politically, you can do it the way you`re proposing. As a
matter of fact, I summarized your proposal and reminded the people at the
White House of it and asked them to take a look. And I got the word back
from a senior White House official who said, Well, it would depend on how
it`s done. And to me, that means that you need to get your action plan
over there right now because --

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: OK, let me do it on television!

FINEMAN: They weren`t it out of hand, you know?

MATTHEWS: OK, my friend, Howard, and you are my friend, as well as
colleague, and you, too, smiling John Heilemann.

Here`s the plan so I do everything aboveboard. I don`t go meet at the
White House, never been invited, never been there. But here`s the thing.
What you do is, you go into a district. Take the nastiest Republican, a
red dog crazy Tea Party, fanatic Tea Party, like Michele Bachmann. You
take a look at a bridge in her district. You take a picture of it. You
get the address.

You show where it needs work, or a bridge that needs built, because
she`s been through this with the stimulus bill. She`ll tell you -- in
fact, she already has, it`ll create 3,000 jobs because she`s done when the
stimulus bill come (ph). They all know that these jobs, like fixing
bridges, building bridges, fixing roads, fixing water systems, fixing
sewage systems create jobs.

So just put it in their face and list all the challenges in their
district, all the particular public works projects that need to be done --
not jobs, jobs that need to be filled, work that needs to be done, safety
that needs to be protected with bridges that are in safety problems right
now.

Take that information to the local newspapers, take it to local TV
affiliates, blast it all over the place and demand that they vote up or
down on it, demand that Boehner give you a vote. That way, you`re playing
offense not defense.

John Heilemann, that`s how you do it. That`s the way we did it in the
old days. You put it in their face and say, Go ahead and vote against it.
You know what they do? They vote for it. That`s what usually happens, or
pay for it. Your thoughts, John Heilemann?

That`s how you get a public works program through, not by saying, Gee
whiz, let`s have a stimulus program, or, Let`s have infrastructure, and all
those god-awful terms that mean absolutely nothing. You show them the
bridge that the school. bus is going over this September. How about we
make it safe? Just a thought. What`s your thought.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: Well, Chris, I mean, first of
all, the White House and the president`s reelection committee clearly
understand that they need to do something politically on the jobs front and
they are, in fact, at the moment, as Howard indicated -- they`re trying to
figure what that should be. They are going to have some kind of a jobs
package that they`re going to roll out at some point in the next couple
weeks, maybe early in September.

I think the problem with your proposal -- and this is something I said
on the show on Friday --

MATTHEWS: So they`re waiting for Halloween or what? What are they
waiting for?

HEILEMANN: This is --

MATTHEWS: What are they waiting for?

HEILEMANN: This is not a president -- this is -- this is not a "put
it in your" -- "put it in their faces" kind of president.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: And I -- I -- I see the political mileage that you`re
proposing, in the proposal that you`re proposing, but it`s so -- runs so
counter to the way -- to the temperament of Barack Obama and the way that
he`s governed. Put it in their faces? When has Barack Obama done that in
the course of two-and-a-half years?

You might argue that he should start doing that, and certainly, they
are started to contemplate whether -- the fork in the road for them is, Do
we put forward a jobs package that has a chance of passing, or do we put
forward something that we know is not going to pass but that we can score
political points with?

And He second of those options is one that is, basically, closer to
yours, which is to say, you know, We`re going to put this forward.
Republicans can stonewall. They won`t pass it, but we`ll gain by waging
the fight. And all I can say is, as I said a second ago, very contrary to
the way Barack Obama has governed over his entire first term so far.

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, what John --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And there are people that -- Michael Smerconish Republicans
from the suburbs, who are not completely, you know, full-mooners who will
see the necessity of voting for jobs as they seek reelection. That`s a
thought, too. I don`t think it`s just for show. I think it`s to get it
done. That`s the way I look at it. Your thoughts, Howard.

MATTHEWS: Well, a couple things. First of all, as a native of
Pittsburgh, where there are 900 bridges, about 500 of which need repair,
I`m all for it. That`s number one. Number two, Barack Obama, as John was
indicating, probably should have spent more time on the Chicago Board of
Aldermen than at the University of Chicago. That way, he would have
understood the specifics of these kinds of -- this kind of politics, as
opposed to the abstraction of politics. That`s number two.

Number three, I think John has a very good point, which is that the
latest polls show that the Republicans, for all the ways they`ve looked
(ph) Barack Obama look passive and emphasized his passivity, as opposed to
his in your face nature, the Republicans have suffered tremendously in the
debt debate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: And now is the time for the Democrats and for Barack Obama
to take the offensive --

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: -- because the Republicans have been weakened enormously in
this debate. They really have.

MATTHEWS: This is the way I talk about it. And John, just to help
you understand what I`m talking about, I`m talking about a jobs program
that gets passed because enough Republicans turn and vote for it because
they have to because you`ve waged an aggressive campaign, not a defensive
campaign, waiting for the weather to change politically, which this
president seems to be doing.

Look at this, the latest "New York Times" poll, CBS poll, too -- 62
percent of Americans say the country should now give higher priority to job
creation, as opposed to 29 percent who say we should be cutting spending.

So at least in the current reality -- they know in the long term,
there`s a debt problem. We all do. But right now, they believe the
current challenge is to create jobs by not avoiding spending money but
doing something with the government power that the government has to do
things. Your thoughts?

FINEMAN: Chris, one thing they could do, in addition to just amplify
your proposal, you know, match every bridge that needs repair up against
parts of the tax code that the president thinks desperately need to be
changed and that most of the American people want to be changed, including
at the high end, including hedge funds, including the corporate jets and
all the stuff that the president talks about in the abstract. Twin it up
with whatever projects you`re talking about.

They have the computer processing power over at the White House. Let
them do it and show exactly how much revenue we`re losing --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: -- that could be used to create the jobs that you`re talking
about.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to the "New York Times" editorial today,
which coincides with what I`m saying, I believe. The "New York Times"
editorial said today that, quote, "Obama should start making the case that
it is foolish to focus the nation`s attention solely on debt, where the
Republicans want it, and instead shift every available resource toward
jobs. If he becomes passionate about the government`s ability to think
creatively about a turnaround, he might just inspire a few Americans, some
of them lawmakers, to join with him. If he stays locked into the arid
agenda of the Republicans, the economy will remain as dormant as his speech
on Monday, which is just where his rivals hope it will be in November
2012."

John, I think the old argument of politics, John Heilemann, is if you
pick the topic, you win. If you`re talking about cutting spending or -- or
not raising taxes, you`re probably talking Republican territory. If you`re
talking jobs and issues that matter to people, work and wages, you`re
probably talking Democratic territory and you`re probably going to win the
argument.

Why doesn`t he get into the argument about jobs and away from the
argument about debt, as "The Times" suggests?

HEILEMANN: Well, look, Chris, I thought that he should have been
waging this fight from the very beginning of the administration. But I
think part of the problem, from their point of view, is twofold. One is,
we know, for instance, like on the debt, on the raising of the debt
ceiling, on that debate -- we know that the position of the Tea Party
freshmen in the Republican Party was not popular in the country, and yet
they were still able to basically take over that debate and able to stop
Obama from succeeding in getting through the kind of policies that the
public favored. So a small group of Republicans who are not on the side of
the public still have the power to control the outcome of the policy.

The other biggest problem for the president is that to take the path
that you`re suggesting would be tantamount to them saying, Look, we got it
wrong. As recently as six months ago, when we put deficit reduction in the
middle of things, when we didn`t make this argument six months ago, we
didn`t make it 18 months ago, we were just wrong. What we -- the policy we
pursued for 18 months was the wrong -- for more than 18 months, for two-
and-a-half years, was the wrong policy.

And you know how hard it is for any politician but particularly for a
president --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: -- to say, Guys, I was wrong. I need to start from
scratch and do something that is in total contradiction to the way I`ve
governed so far.

FINEMAN: Yes.

HEILEMANN: I just think it`s going to be very hard to get Barack
Obama to admit that.

MATTHEWS: Howard?

FINEMAN: Well, it think it might be hard to get him to admit it, but
if he realizes that his presidency is at stake, he might change his mind.
And I think he could argue, at least attempt to argue, that they learned
from the first stimulus that it did some good things, but now they`re going
to take it to a stage two and have it more focused.

Again, to repeat my analogy, it`s not sort of spraying the hose all
over the desert, it`s making sure you put a drop on each seed that`s
required now and that he can talk about.

The problem that he`s got is that he makes more observations than he
does take actions. Remember when he said two years ago that, you know, the
biggest lie in government is "shovel-ready" because the projects weren`t
ready. It was like he was making an observation. And to say the other
day, as he did, We`re still a AAA country, as though that was somehow
reassuring, was, again, a monument to passivity, not to action.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know, John, to make your point, you know, when the
Titanic was sinking that horrible night when that ship went down, a lot of
people on that boat stayed on that ship because they thought was safer on
the Titanic than it was in the lifeboat. They made a mistake.

Thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, John Heilemann. A hell of a
comparison, I know.

Coming up: We`ve had three wave elections in a row now, `06, `08 and
`10. And Americans once again say they`re angry at everyone in office.
But whenever there`s a wave, somebody wins and somebody loses. Let`s talk
about that coming election, where somebody will lose and somebody will win.
That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Politico is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid has chosen three Senate colleagues for the bipartisan super-committee
that`s tasked with finding additional reductions in the federal deficit.
Here they are. The three senators are Patty Murray of Washington state,
Montana`s Max Baucus and John Kerry of Massachusetts. Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell has pretty much promised that none of the people he
names to that super-committee would even consider raising taxes.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Are we looking at another wave election, you know, where one party
gets really kicked in the butt and the other one wins? Well, in 2006,
Democrats won more than 30 House seats and took over the United States
Senate. That was wave number one.

In 2008, Democrats grabbed another 20-plus House seats, seven more in
the Senate, and took the White House, of course, with President Obama.
Wave two.

Then last year, the Republicans won back all those House seats and
more and took back half of the lost Senate seats. Wave three. Now with
the Republicans -- actually, Americans angry at everyone, we could be
looking at wave four. But who gets buried this time?

Joining us right now is "USA Today" Washington bureau chief Susan Page
and Ron Reagan, author of, "My Father at 100." Both of you, thank you so
much for this.

I`m looking at these numbers. Let`s take a look at the biggest
numbers here, the new numbers from the "USA Today" Gallup poll. When asked
if registered voters think most members of Congress deserve reelection,
only 21 percent said yes, 70 percent said, Get rid of them all.

Then you asked them, When it`s your member, your own member of
Congress -- here we go again -- they were more slightly forgiving, more
than slightly -- 54 percent said their own congressperson deserved
reelection, while just 34 percent, about a third, said that member of
Congress shouldn`t be remembered -- or even brought back into office. So
similar to what we`ve seen before in wave elections before now.

Susan, analyze this. The fact that 54 percent said, I`m going to keep
my own member of Congress, man or woman, Democrat or Republican -- that`s
not enough to prevent a wave, right?

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Oh, no. That`s about where things were in
1994, when we had a big wave. Democrats lost the House and Senate. It`s
about where we in 2006, when things went the other way. That seems like an
OK number. It is, in fact, a terrible number when it comes to reelection
of your own member of Congress.

MATTHEWS: So what`s this tell you? (INAUDIBLE) your numbers. And
I`ll go to Ron in a minute. It seems to me that there`s no such thing as a
"both -- hell on both your houses." People decide, they discriminate, and
they say, One party screwed up. We`re going to get even with them.
They`re gone. And the other party we`ll have to put in, because you only
get two choices.

So which ones does it look like, based on your numbers, is going to
get kicked butt?

PAGE: So this is not something that`s now clear. This is an
opportunity for both parties --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- rig your pulse so it doesn`t say who`s getting kicked
out?

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: Because people have not decided. People could blame either
side.

MATTHEWS: Really?

PAGE: Republicans have not really -- Obama has lost some ground in
our polling. Republicans haven`t really gained ground.

MATTHEWS: Gotcha.

PAGE: People don`t like either side.

We have got 15 months to the election. One side or the other should
be able to make the case: It`s not our fault. We have got a plan for the
future. Vote for us.

MATTHEWS: Well, Ron, there`s two ways to look at it.

One, they`re looking for who to blame exactly. They just are mad at
everybody. And that`s going to be a battle of finger-pointing, obviously,
which is fair enough. It`s a big part of politics.

But the other one is, each party has a chance to prove themselves now.
And neither one has. Neither the president, nor his Republican opposition
have looked like leaders positively to a better country. That`s what I
look at.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you`re absolutely
right.

And the challenge for Barack Obama is to actually marry some of the
soaring rhetoric to actual policy here. What is he going to do? I mean,
we all know what the Republicans stand for. You can characterize whatever
it any way you want, you know, deregulate, privatize, reward the rich,
small government, lower taxes, big military.

Well, you can come up with some short phrases that describe the
Republican agenda. What does Barack Obama stand for? Can you do that with
him? I don`t think so. I can`t. But he`s got to --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s why I want him to do something like a jobs
bill.

REAGAN: If you can`t by 2012, he loses.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s why -- to be a little bit of a relentless voice
tonight, I really do think I have figured --

REAGAN: Uh-huh.

MATTHEWS: -- out what the country wants, based upon all the polling
and all shows we have done here. They want jobs.

REAGAN: Jobs.

MATTHEWS: People out of work want to go to work, real jobs, not leaf
raking. They would love to have real physical jobs, a lot of guys and
women out there. They`re waiting in line. Every time you have a job
opening in a big city, there`s thousands of people waiting in line, able-
bodied people who want to work that day.

And it`s -- shovel-ready. How about work-ready?

REAGAN: I like your plan, actually.

MATTHEWS: They`re ready to go to work. They just want to see the
job.

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: I like your plan, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Where do I go?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: Not because I think it`s going to actually pass, but you
don`t always win just by getting the bill passed. Sometimes you win by
laying down a marker for people to see so that they know where you stand.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Well, let`s go to the prompter here, because I think you`re making
some points. And when it came to the president, 47 percent of registered
voters said he deserves reelection, not exactly a healthy number. Fifty
percent is a no. Traditionally, when you`re below 50, you`re vulnerable.

PAGE: That`s right. He`s holding a core vote. That`s not a bad
thing. He could be lower than that. But you don`t win in a two-way race
with 47 percent of the vote. He needs to be doing a little better than
that if he`s going to win reelection.

There`s kind of a magic number on job approval. Usually we think it`s
50 percent. George W. Bush managed to win a second term with 48 percent
job approval. But you really need to be a little higher than Barack Obama
has been these last few months, this last year or so, if he is going to win
a second term.

MATTHEWS: Well, it doesn`t seem right to me yet.

Anyway, that same poll, the "USA Today"/Gallup poll, showed that
President Obama beats a generic Republican -- he`s not going to run against
a generic -- 49-44. He will probably run against one of the other three
people.

Let me go back to what you said, Ron, because I think it`s a telling
critique of the president right now. And I`m fond of him. I want him to
succeed. I see all the problems --

REAGAN: Me, too.

MATTHEWS: -- that everybody watching this show sees in this
administration. They`re transparent right now, too much talk, too little
action, too much academic behavior, not enough gold old-fashioned
Democratic politics here.

Your dad, President Reagan, I used to say when I was working on the
other side for -- in the opposition for Tip O`Neill, I always said, every
cab driver -- and Susan knows this -- in Washington, every cab driver,
regular guy or woman, knows where that guy stands. He wants to beat the
communists.

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: He wants to reduce the size of government by cutting taxes.
They all got it. They didn`t agree with it in a lot of cases, but they got
it.

REAGAN: Yes.

No, people come up to me now years later, and they will say, well, you
know, I didn`t agree with your father on much, but you know what? When he
said something, you knew he meant it. You knew where he stood.

People don`t vote for the most reasonable guy in the room. They vote
for the guy they respect or woman they respect. And you earn respect by
taking a stand, by making it clear what you`re all about.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: And Barack Obama just needs to do a better job of that.

MATTHEWS: Yes. We had -- we had a presidential candidate from
Illinois many years ago when I was growing up who spoke very well, and lost
twice.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: His name was Adlai Stevenson.

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Smart guy, well-spoken, as they used to say.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, the president`s told supporters at a fund-raiser
last night -- quote -- and this -- I have to read this because it wasn`t
taped -- "The good news is that I think there has been enough frustration
at Washington, sort of reached a fevered pitch last week, that we`re now
looking at 16 months in which there`s going to be a clear contrast and a
clear choice."

What do you make of that statement? I found it confounding. He`s
saying, we got a great 16 months ahead of us between now and the election
because there`s a clear contrast. What is this, a deliberation period
coming up for the American voter?

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: And, also, as you and Ron were saying, is there such a clear
statement of principles and plans --

MATTHEWS: From him?

PAGE: -- from him for the next 15 months? There isn`t now.

Now, 15 months, a long period of time, political landscape can change.
He could make his case, but you know we`re going to be in a situation where
the economy isn`t good, right? Even if the economy doesn`t get -- even if
we don`t go into a double-dip recession, we are not going to be in a
booming recovery.

That really increases the need, the imperative for him to say, I have
a plan that will help us move forward. Here`s what it is.

MATTHEWS: How does the president clarify his position on jobs?

Ron, last thought.

REAGAN: By marrying his rhetoric to policy. It`s fine to say that we
have to focus on jobs. It`s fine to pivot to jobs, as everybody was saying
in the last week.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: There`s a powerful word.

REAGAN: But what are the policies there? What are you going to do
about jobs? Clear contrast. Clear choice.

If he doesn`t make the choice and the contrast clear, the Republicans
will do it for him. And they will do it in a way that just muddies the
water. So, he`s got to -- he`s got to lay down his principles and marry
them to policies.

MATTHEWS: I say bring up a jobs program, make the Republicans vote
against it. And I will bet you they buckle this time.

Anyway, thank you, Susan Page.

REAGAN: I will go for that.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ron Reagan.

Up next: After all the turmoil on Wall Street, which continues today,
is it time for panic? Apparently not. But Steve Colbert is very funny, if
you want a little comic relief from a difficult week on Wall Street, which
we have all had.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now for the "Sideshow."

First up: Leave it Stephen Colbert to put a hilarious spin on the
U.S. credit rating downgrade. Let`s watch as he prepares for the
consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Folk, there is nothing
to worry about. On Wall Street, cooler heads always prevail.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You can see the Dow Jones Industrials down
almost 300 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are down more than 400 points.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Dow is now down 500 points.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s down nearly 600 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s down 631 points.

BLITZER: Wall Street spending yet another day in what`s being
described as freak-out mode.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Don`t panic!

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Everything`s fine! I`m just --

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I`m just down here looking for my emergency hobo satchel.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: OK. Now, remember, folks, just remember -- oh -- just
remember --

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: -- over the long term, stocks always increase in value. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: This is just a temporary correction. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: There is no need to lose confidence in the system. OK?

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: And, yes, yes, perhaps --

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: -- perhaps we`re experiencing a wee bit of a contraction
here, but do not pull your money out of the stock market just yet.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, it`s like finding the captain of a ship hiding in a
lifeboat.

Next up, here`s something that might just make Chris Christie
reconsider the 2012 presidential race. Bill Kristol, who is editor of "The
Weekly Standard," has written a poem to entice certain non-candidates into
entering the GOP presidential race. It`s entitled "To Our Non-Coy
Candidates."

It reads in part: "Now do step forward while you may. No longer
dither and delay, but manfully embrace your fate and boldly be a
candidate."

Well, the title -- the full title of the poem reads: "For Paul Ryan,
Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Others," a tribute, I believe,
to how bad the current list of candidates happens to be.

Up next: Democrats in Wisconsin are looking to blacken of anti-union
Governor Scott Walker tonight. Six Republican state senators face recall
challenges tonight. If the Democrats can win just three of those six
races, they will win control of the state Senate and make their case. This
is an election that could tell us a lot about which way the wind`s blowing
for next year.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

A rip-roaring rally late in the session -- the Dow Jones industrials
swinging through a 640-point range to finish 429 points in the green. The
S&P 500 surging 53 points in incredibly heavy trading, the Nasdaq soaring
124 points.

Well, the Dow regained its footing late this afternoon after some wild
gyrations following the Federal Reserve`s somber assessment of the economy.
Not a lot of substance in that Fed statement today. It acknowledged that
the economic is much weaker than expected and pledged to keep interest
rates exceptionally low through to mid-2013, but gave no hint of another
round of stimulus.

Well, Treasury yields plunged in the wake of that report, with the
two-year note touching an all-time low, before rebounding along with
stocks. Well, let`s cap it with some earnings news. Disney added to gains
after-hours on better-than-expected sales and profits posted after the
closing bell.

That`s it from CNBC. We`re first in business worldwide -- back over
to HARDBALL now.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today is, of course, a day for a lot of Democrats across the country.
They have been waiting for this recall election out in Wisconsin, where six
Republican state senators face recall and defeat. If the Democrats can win
back three of those seats out of those six, they`re going to take control
of the state Senate out there in Madison and they will be in a position to
reverse Governor Scott Walker`s anti-union agenda.

This is more than a parochial race out there. Everybody has been
watching Wisconsin. It`s really the first fight of the 2012 election
cycle.

And joining us right now is an expert and an advocate, a guy who cares
a lot about the working people out there, Ed Schultz, who has been covering
this whole Scott Walker event out there as he fights the unions.

Is this going to be down in the history -- history books, Ed, my
colleague, of the labor union? Labor has had a hard fight over the last
30, 40 years, with high-tech and scab operations everywhere, not doing
extremely well, like they were back in, say, the `30s, when we had the
great Depression, the last big economic test. What`s this going to say
about history here ? What is it going to mean, this fight tonight?

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Well, I think it`s the battleground
zero, Chris, for labor unions in this country.

And the ground game that`s been put together here in Wisconsin, I
mean, if they can`t do it here, where are they going to do it? It`s almost
as if the unions have come in from all over the country saying that, if we
can`t win Wisconsin, how influential are we going to do be? This is very
important to them, for the teachers, the firefighters, the law enforcement
officials, the librarians, the city workers, all the way across the board.

This is a statement about the middle class. That`s what this election
is all about and it`s a referendum on the governor, but it`s also a
referendum on just how important the issues are to the middle class in this
country. And I think it`s going have is a big effect on other states as
well.

The -- the -- you know, this is the eye of the storm for the fight of
the country when it comes to the middle class of this country, no doubt
about it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let`s take a look at the six Republican state
senators who are trying to hold on out there, hold on to their seats.

Of the six, Democrats reportedly feel good about their chances in two
of those six races. Two others, they seem to have a good chance. Two are
safe. So how do you -- how do you call it right now, this time of night,
early in the evening, before we get the returns in?

SCHULTZ: Well, I will tell you, Chris, the intangible here is the
turnout.

I mean, there`s been no question about it, that it`s at presidential
levels in some of these districts. Enthusiasm is high. I just talked to
Jon Erpenbach, who is the state senator, Democrat, here from Wisconsin. He
says: You know, we got the ground game. They have got the money.

So nobody knows how to read this heavy turnout at presidential levels.
And so, on one hand, they`re really excited about that, but they`re not
really sure what that means. The crown jewel race to watch is in suburban
Milwaukee, Alberta Darling. She`s a close associate to Governor Scott
Walker.

She is the one that was very instrumental in writing the collective --
anti-collective bargaining bill.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

SCHULTZ: And Sandy Pasch has put on a great fight against her. And
Darling knows she`s in a fight. That`s why $8 million was poured into that
district to support Alberta Darling.

And she`s kind of like Sarah -- or Sharron Angle, if we could go back
to those days in Nevada. Alberta Darling says anything. I mean, she gets
out there and says, hey. She says, well, we`re not making cuts in
education.

What? You have cut almost $1 billion in education. And, you know,
Chris, Wisconsin`s got everything. They cut corporate taxes.
Unemployment, in fact, has gone up a little bit under Scott Walker. They
cut the personal income taxes at the top levels that Governor Doyle used to
have. They brought that back. It hasn`t done anything.

They have cut the investment and it`s hurt a lot of people. And
people are riled up here. And I think it`s going to be a big night for the
Democrats. I think they`re going to get those three seats, possibly four.

MATTHEWS: OK. That`s what it`s about. They have to win three out of
six, they win control of the state Senate, and they make their case, and
they`re on top of this fight.

Ed Schultz, you`re a big part of that fight. Good luck out there.

"THE ED SHOW," of course, is on tonight at 10:00.

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: We are going to learn a lot more about this when we watch
Ed tonight at 10:00.

And, by the way, let`s -- all the results will be in perhaps by then.

Joining us right now is Sandy Pasch, who we were just talking about
there. She`s the Wisconsin state assemblywoman and the Democratic
challenger to that hot shot out there, Alberta Darling, who is so close to
the governor.

(LAUGHTER)

You`re laughing because you know the whole story out there.

Are you going to win tonight?

SANDY PASCH (D), WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY: I`m feeling really, really
positive. You know, I just came from the headquarters, and the energy, the
number of volunteers we have is unbelievable. Over 1,000 people in the
last few days.

MATTHEWS: Give me your pitch as you go around meeting people in the
street. You got about 30 seconds with somebody in the street corner. I`m
beginning to talk like Ed Schultz now. You got 30 seconds on the corner,
and you`re talking to somebody and you want to win them over. What`s your
pitch to vote for you, not the governor`s state senator?

PASCH: My pitch is that I`m new in politics. That, you know, I`ve
only been in office for a little over a term and came from 30 years of
health care being a nurse. And I ran for office because I cared about the
issues that matter to people and that`s why I`m doing this again.

MATTHEWS: What`s at stake tonight? What do you tell them about that?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s at stake tonight?

PASCH: What`s at stake is education. What`s at stake is working
families, the middle class, the health of our local communities. You know,
safety. It`s -- a vision of Wisconsin that we have really seemed destroyed
in the last few months, and that people are eager to reverse and get back
on track.

MATTHEWS: Why is it important for the young voter out who`s 18, man
or woman, who has never been through all of these fights, in all of this
stuff, you know, Wagner Act, they don`t know anything that history. Most
people are young.

What`s important being able to collectively bargain, the form a union,
to organize a union and have some collective strength? Why is that
important to a middle class person?

PASCH: Well, I`ve been telling a lot of people is that our state is
stronger and every organization is stronger when we have many voices at the
table. Just because you don`t agree with someone doesn`t mean they don`t
have a right to be there.

And if they want to have, you know, good education, we need to start
bringing the best and brightest. We need to have the best and brightest in
education, and what we`ve seen in the last few months is an assault on
teachers and an assault on social workers and an assault on so many public
workers.

And people need to understand that that`s the -- that`s our middle
class. That`s -- those are the people who do so much for us. You know, we
need to value them.

MATTHEWS: You know, Schwarzenegger, I liked him when he went in and
he went out -- the first thing was go after teachers, the firefighters.
And it just seemed to me, why do they go after you folks right away? Why
the teacher, the firefighters, the nurses?

Why are they the targets of these Republican governors? What`s that
about? Why you three?

PASCH: Yu know, yes. I mean, it just seems that it`s hitting worker
against worker and saying one worker, you know, we`ve taken everything
away. We haven`t taken it away from them yet. So, let`s go after them.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PASCH: It`s a very mean-spirited way to try to grow jobs and the
economy, which is what they ran on. And I don`t think that`s been their
agenda at all. They have been so extreme in what they`ve been doing since
January. They have really lost sight of what we need to do in our state,
and what we need to do across the country.

MATTHEWS: Well, Sandy, you look like a nice person to me. I hope you
do well tonight. It`s up to the voters, of course, not to me. Thanks for
coming on HARDBALL.

Up next, is President Obama about to run a Bush-style swift boat
campaign against his opponent, thinking it`s Romney? Is this getting real
personal, real soon?

Yes. "Politico" reports President Obama`s reelection campaign is
taking a page from George W. Bush`s 2004 playbook, zeroing in on a likely
challenger, this one, Mitt Romney, hoping to land a knockout punch before
the fight gets going.

This is HARDBALL -- and that`s hardball -- only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a great old Washington institution that`s
falling victim to the budget acts -- the congressional page program. Do
you believe it? The House of Representatives has ended the program for
good. This brought young people to work in Congress for the past 175
years.

House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told
their colleagues through BlackBerrys and other technology, has largely
rendered the pages obsolete. Ending the program will save about $5 million
a year. More robots.

We`ll be right back. Isn`t this the story of America? Robots
replacing people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Wow. The Obama re-election team sees Mitt Romney as the
likeliest Republican candidate, we`re told right now. And plans that are
too strongly attack him personally as a phony. And here`s the keyword, as
weird.

That`s the word, according to a report in "Politico." They`re going
to try to get the word out that the guy`s weird and shouldn`t be president.
They also say he`s a Gordon Gekko-type character from the movie "Wall
Street." He`s out to screw you out of your job.

Romney made lots of money as a ventured capitalist partly by buying up
companies and eliminating jobs.

Well, Romney`s camp shot back today saying, quote, this is one of his
people say, saying, "It is disgraceful that President Obama`s campaign has
launched his campaign, reelection campaign, with a stated goal to kill his
opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks. President
Obama will say and do desperate things to hold on to power because he knows
he has failed."

For a closer right now at the anti-Romney strategy, we`re joined by
Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, and, David Brody, who`s chief
political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.

David, thank you so much for joining us and, Steve, always -- have
they -- this is pretty good reporting by "Politico." They talked to a
dozen people in the Obama inner circle who say Mitt Romney is weird.

Why that word, weird?

DAVID BRODY, CBN NEWS: Well, it`s pseudo to bring in to the whole
Mormonism issue. I mean, clearly. I mean, that`s clear. I`m surprised
they`re bringing it in this early. But then, again, they`re creating the
narrative early enough for Romney to get pegged this way. We knew this was
going to happen if Romney was the nominee -- surprising though that it
happened so quickly.

MATTHEWS: And this idea of targeting him early -- you know, it`s an
old California thing. Run the negatives in the summer, but this is the
summer before.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right. Well, actually, I don`t
-- it`s not unusual for an incumbent who`s got looking at challenging
numbers, to try to define their opponent, or their likely opponent, before
the opponent gets to define themselves. It`s something that governors do.
It`s something senators do. It`s something Bill Clinton did --

MATTHEWS: What`s the vulnerability of him? What`s Romney, who looks
like Mr. President, he`s got the chin and everything, and the family name,
and big six kids that all look the same and look great, you know?

I`m not knocking him, but what`s the knock? What`s the clever knock
against him now?

MCMAHON: Well, the clever knock against him now is --

MATTHEWS: He`s a Mormon.

MCMAHON: -- he`s not comfortable in his own skin. He`s a little odd.

MATTHEWS: Well, weird. What`s weird mean?

MCMAHON: Well, you know what? I think it probably means different
things to different people.

MATTHEWS: What do you think they want it to mean?

MCMAHON: Well, I don`t think they want to mean necessarily anything
other than what they say. But I do think

MATTHEWS: Does it Mormon

MCMAHON: But I do think that to a Christian conservative, it means
Mormon.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCMAHON: And to a working person, it means somebody who jokes about
being unemployed when they`re a multi-millionaire running for the president
of the United States. And to somebody else, it might mean something
different.

Remember, Mitt Romney has been a lot of different things to a lot of
people, but he`s sort of hollowed out his core. And they`re pointing that
out. It`s a legitimate thing to point out. I don`t think running against
Mormonism is legitimate. But I don`t think you`ll see them do that.

BRODY: Well, I don`t know about that. See? I think what you`re
going to see is weird is going to morph into something a whole lot more
desperate for the Obama campaign come July, September -- whatever it
happens to be of 2012 if Romney is the nominee.


I don`t think there`s any question we`re going to start to see leak,
whether on background, deep background, what form is going to take --
whether it`d be DNC memos or whatever. But we are going to see -- we`re
going to see something along the lines of more specific examples of this
"weirdness" that they`re talking about generically.

MATTHEWS: Let me go -- and let`s get to the word because I think it`s
a fascinating thing. With Dukakis, they made him into a foreigner. They
said he`s an immigrant who hasn`t quite assimilated. In fact, he`s ACLU.
He`s weird left wing. They really made him unpatriotic.

With John Kerry, as you know, they turned him into a kind of like a
guy who retreated from the face of the enemy, some kind of quasi-traitor,
horrible things they said against the guy who served his country and faced
bullets. But here -- weird is interesting, because weird does play on some
of his vulnerabilities. He`s incredibly formal in his behavior publicly.
He does seem artificial in the way he presents himself.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Here`s a guy who irons his jeans.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He puts his dog on the roof of the car when he goes to
Quebec.

BRODY: It`s not. Here`s the tangible issue. The tangible issue is
that there was a real concern -- it was in 2008 -- that he has a hard time
connecting personally to voters.

MCMAHON: And he does.

MATTHEWS: And how do you turn it into a negative? Because a lot of
guys can`t - people connect, but it`s not frightening. How can you turn
awkwardness into scary?

BRODY: Well, first of all, I`m not convinced that this Mormon card,
if you will, this weird card, is actually going to be all that advantageous
for the Obama campaign.

MATTHEWS: Why do they think it will be? That`s what I want to know.

MCMAHON: It`s not a Mormon card. It`s a weird card. It`s different
from Mormon card.

BRODY: But, when you play the weird card, you know what you`re
playing.

MCMAHON: Well, no, no, no. Look, this is not going to -- the Obama
campaign isn`t going to engage on Mormonism.

BRODY: Of course, they`re not.

MCMAHON: But that engagement probably will occur and probably will
occur in South Carolina. And it will people like Rick Perry. It will
people like Michele Bachmann, the fundamentalist Christian community who
think Mormonism, frankly, is more than --


(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: They think it`s sacrilegious because Mormons don`t believe
Jesus Christ is the savior and fundamentalist Christians and many --

MATTHEWS: I think he might say --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`ll let him answer that question.

MCMAHON: We know he will, but I`m just talking about the faith
generally, not Mitt Romney.

BRODY: Let me just say -- 2012 is different from 2008. In 2008, he
had to go through all of this with abortion and marriage and he had to
explain his faith. 2012, been there, done that, now, evangelical
Christians are looking at the debt ceiling, all of this, as a moral issue -
- something that Jim Wallis, the progressives have been talking about
years, but now, evangelical Christian see it that way as well, to tear an
issue. And there was a tendency potentially for this debate --

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at these weird Romney awkward
moments that could be construed, if you`re negative on him, as weird,
trying to connect with voters. Let`s look at a few examples of what people
might consider awkward behavior by candidate Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK. I get right in the
middle. See if my arms (ph) around everybody. Ah, come on in, much
closer, much -- oh, goodness graciousness. Oh! Come on.

Who`s got the camera, though? Who let the dogs out? Who, who?
Thanks, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you on global warming?

ROMNEY: Well, it`s not too hot in here this evening, so this is
encouraging. I did write a book. I wrote a book, and you`re saying it was
good? Good. I appreciate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great.

ROMNEY: I -- pardon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was great.

ROMNEY: It was great. Thank you, dad -- no, I`m kidding, I`m
kidding.

I`m your age, so I can`t get away with that.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Yes, I guess weird is not the right word for me.

What would you say? Give it your word. His behavior, very formal.

MCMAHON: Awkward.

MATTHEWS: Almost old school, 1950s.

MCMAHON: It`s like -- it`s sort of like he`s trying -- somebody said
to him, hey, Mitt, you got to be a regular guy. And the thing is he
doesn`t know how to be a regular guy. So, he tries and he jokes, they fall
flat.

MATTHEWS: Is that it?

BRODY: No.

MCMAHON: And he tries to seem like a regular guy. He`s not.

MATTHEWS: I think they`re playing with fire here.

BRODY: No. I mean, look, so he`s not Jon Stewart. But, look, at the
same time, if he can make the case that he can create jobs -- and let me
just say one last thing real quick --

MATTHEWS: We`re out of time.

BRODY: The Obama administration -- the Obama campaign, it could
backfire. And then big time --

MATTHEWS: OK. We`ll see -- it does show they`re afraid of him.
Anyway thank you -- they want to run against Rick Perry or Barbara -- not
Barbara Bachmann. Barbara Bachmann is not the movie star. Michele
Bachmann.

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. Thank you, David Brody. You are
hiding out on me on this one.

When we return -- you know what weird means. "Let Me Finish" with
some big questions about the war in Afghanistan. And why are we fighting
there?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this war in Afghanistan.

The president went through Dover, Delaware, to the Air Force base
today, to pay his respect to the 30 American service members killed when
their helicopter was shot down this weekend in Afghanistan.

I think now we need to ask a basic question about our mission over
there: what is it? If it`s to fight the Taliban, that leads to two other
questions.

First: why are we fighting them? It`s their country, not ours. Why
are we in their country fighting people who want to run their country? Do
we have more right to say who runs the country than the people who live
there? Who says we get to decide we get, who says it`s our country to call
the shots in?

Second question: how do we defeat the Taliban? Presumably, the day
will come when we leave and they stay. If we`re gone and they`re still
there, won`t they be able to take over? If we`re leaving in five years or
10 years or 20 years, won`t they still be there? Won`t they still be
fighting?

Those two questions are really important to answer. We just lost all
those good, brave and patriotic men. They were out there on the front line
doing the tough fighting against the Taliban, fighting the insurgents,
fighting on one side of an Afghan war that began long before we got there
and will be going on when we leave.

If the goal is to fight terrorists, on the other hand, operating in
that country against us, why don`t we do that? Why are we fighting in
their civil war over there?

I know that it`s hard for any president, especially a Democrat, to
pull out of the war zone. But if the chief reason we`re staying there is
to avoid the criticism for leaving, then it`s surely time to leave.

I don`t know of many Americans who think this war now lasting 10 years
is heading for victory if we stay there another 10 years.

The reason this war has gone on is that we have first-rate highly
disciplined troops in the American military. They do what they`re told to
do. But that`s all the more reason why that we should have a mission that
makes sense and justifies the total sacrifice these patriotic Americans
stand ready to make.

I have to believe that if we had a draft right now in this country,
which made every young person vulnerable to being sent over to Afghanistan
and thrown into this fight, we would have been out of there a long time
ago. There`s something wrong with a country fighting a war that most of
the country has come to pay so little attention to.

That`s HARDBALL. Thanks for being with us.

More politics ahead with Al Sharpton.


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

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