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updated 9/13/2011 11:57:00 AM ET 2011-09-13T15:57:00

Guests: Michael Smerconish, Amanda Drury, Howard Fineman, Chris Cillizza, David Corn, Joe Conason, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Barbara Lee

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Romney or Perry, pick your poison.

And let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington: Leading off tonight,
campaign kickoff. The fall political season is on, and the race for the
Republican nomination is boiling down to Rick Perry or Mitt Romney. So who
does President Obama want to run against? I love that question! Does he
think either of them will be easy? That`s our top story tonight.

Then: We could have seen this coming. Republicans are already
grumbling about President Obama`s jobs plan, saying they don`t want to give
him a political victory. They don`t want action, even if that means
hurting people who desperately need to get jobs.

And that`s why the president needs to take this fight straight to
Republicans and highlight projects, works that need -- work that needs
doing in their own districts. All politics is local. He`s got to dare
them to vote no for projects that help their own constituents.

Tomorrow, President Obama goes to Ohio, home of House Speaker John
Boehner, and Boehner`s district is home to 95 bridges that need repair --
structurally deficient. Shouldn`t this help the president`s argument? We
think so.

Plus, 10 years after the September 11 attacks, is the neocon movement
over for good? Did the hawks that took us to war in Iraq learn their
lesson, finally? Dick Cheney writes about how he was pushing for an attack
on Syria back in 2007, but he was the only one doing it. Has the rest of
the party moved on?

And putting politics aside, this week, it`s 9/11 remembrance, saw
leaders standing side by side, including Bill Clinton and John Boehner
coming together to finish the memorial to the heroes of Flight 93. We were
there. I got to tell you, it was very emotional.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with the innermost thoughts of Jackie
Kennedy. Let`s just say it`s complicated.

We begin with which Republican candidate President Obama wants to run
against. Thank God we`ve got the right people here, especially -- here
they are. Howard Fineman is Huffington Post Media Group`s editorial
director -- his titles get longer and more impressive, and they should...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... and Chris Cillizza is managing editor of
Postpolitics.com, another long title! Both are MSNBC political analysts,
and that`s the best part of their title.

OK, Howard...

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes?

MATTHEWS: ... up front, lead-off batter, you, who does the president
and his smartest brainiacs think would be easier to take on come next
November, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry?

FINEMAN: Well, the White House itself is in radio silence. So I
talked to the pollsters and the advisers outside who are advising the White
House, and pulling a little teeth here, I got them to admit...

MATTHEWS: They hate to tell you, don`t they.

FINEMAN: They do.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Give away the game.

FINEMAN: Yes. I think the bottom line is they think Perry`s the more
beatable one.

MATTHEWS: Because?

FINEMAN: Because in focus groups that they did off the president`s
speech...

MATTHEWS: Oh.

FINEMAN: ... they think that the hot rhetoric of Perry and the sort
of, Let`s change all the ideology, rhetoric of Perry is not where the
voters are at, the mainstream voters are at.

MATTHEWS: You mean saying Bernie Madoff was behind the New Deal?

FINEMAN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: They want practical policies to work.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: And Romney, however boring he may be, is closer, in the
White House`s view, or at least the people advising the White House, in
terms of being a guy who could get practical results...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... as opposed to starting an ideological fight. At least,
that`s what I take from the interpretation of the focus group...

MATTHEWS: It makes sense to me.

FINEMAN: ... from the White House types (ph).

MATTHEWS: Did they also -- and I think you`re also saying that if you
take the 30 percent of the hard right are going to vote against Obama if he
runs against anybody, but...

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: He`s already lost them. And then -- but that 20 percent
that makes it up to 50, that other 20 percent that goes from 30 percent to
50 percent, which is the ones that can beat you -- they may not go as far
as Rick Perry. They might say, you know, I can`t do this. I can`t...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... the advisers of the White House and the Democrats are
saying, Too hot, too ideological for those late-deciding suburban women
voters who decide...

MATTHEWS: I know them! I grew up with them. I know them from the
`burbs. Let me go right now to Chris Cillizza for an equally gutsy call.
Who would they most like to run against -- least like to run against, Perry
or Romney, the White House?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POSTPOLITICS.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Howard is
right on both counts. One, they don`t talk about it. And two, if they did
talk about it, they would say they`d rather run against Rick Perry.

And Chris, you mentioned -- you`re were talking about it -- I think
what you`re looking at in almost any presidential election, but almost
certainly in 2012 -- 40 percent of the people will vote for the Republican
nominee, almost no matter who it is...

MATTHEWS: Right.

CILLIZZA: ... certainly between Perry and Romney, 40 percent will
vote for Barack Obama. We`re talking about that -- it might not even be 20
percent, but let`s say it`s 20 percent -- independents in the middle...

MATTHEWS: Let`s call them the Porky Pig vote!

CILLIZZA: ... totally -- totally...

MATTHEWS: The people who`d vote for Porky Pig rather than President
Obama!

CILLIZZA: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: And you know, the thing is, is we spend all of our time,
Chris -- we spend all of our time analyzing elections, and in truth, you`re
probably talking about 10 percent of the voting population.

MATTHEWS: In the middle. I know. And they make all the difference.

CILLIZZA: What I would say is they believe that Romney, tonally --
tonally -- is more appealing to those candidates -- to those independent
voters -- businessman background, he`s from the Northeast, he was the
governor of a Northeastern state...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: ... than Rick Perry`s Southern accent, governor of Texas,
Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, those kind of, to Howard`s point, white-
hot comments that in the middle, people just want to feel like government
is working and politicians understand them.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CILLIZZA: Romney fits that mold better, and therefore, more dangerous
against Obama.

MATTHEWS: Chris, do you have a guy in your family or in your close
circle of friends that usually you can tell is your bellwether? I have a
brother named Charlie who does a lot of work in business. He`s a business
guy, a salesman of high-tech stuff. And if I -- I can`t -- he`s only voted
wrong once, he told me the other day. He voted for Dukakis. Generally, if
you ask him how he`s going no vote -- do you have anybody like that,
Howard?

FINEMAN: I do. I have an aunt like that and...

MATTHEWS: Who`s a bellwether.

FINEMAN: Yes. Who`s a bellwether, you know...

MATTHEWS: Have you checked in with her lately?

FINEMAN: I haven`t checked in with her lately.

MATTHEWS: Maybe we ought to do a weekly check-in with our favorite
family members...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: I`ve got my parents.

FINEMAN: Might be a little early.

MATTHEWS: Who do you go with? Who do you go with, Chris?

CILLIZZA: You know what? I do -- I check in with my parents,
especially my mom. They live in Connecticut...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: ... which is not, obviously, a Republican redoubt. But you
know, I think they reflect what a lot of people think, Chris, which is that
they think things are broken. You know, they don`t believe...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CILLIZZA: ... that the government is working for them, and they`re
willing to look around. I mean, I think that`s what Barack Obama -- he`s
got to close the deal because people are willing to look around. I`m not
sure they`re sold on the other candidates on the Republican side, but they
want to look.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I also think the problem for President Obama is he has
to realize it isn`t just personality. When people want change, they find a
way of liking the other person. They find a way of liking them.

CILLIZZA: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Here`s NBC`s Brian Williams asking President Obama about
the very question I`ve raised with you two fellows, about the Republican
field this weekend. Let`s listen to what the president said or didn`t say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Did you watch any of the
Republican debate?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I didn`t
watch my own debates, much less somebody else`s.

WILLIAMS: Mitt Romney, quote, "President`s a nice guy. He doesn`t
have a clue how to get this country working again." Your reaction?

OBAMA: I`m not going to start reacting to Republican rhetoric in a
presidential campaign. Let them decide who it is that is going to be their
standard-bearer, and we`ll have more than ample time to have a debate with
them.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of Rick Perry, who is, I guess, the front-
runner?

OBAMA: Well, you know, he`s been the governor of a big state, and you
know, there`s no doubt the he`s a credible candidate, as is Mr. Romney and
a whole bunch of other folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was Brian Williams, our colleague, fly-fishing
out there...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... for trout, and he didn`t get any because the president
wasn`t saying nothin`!

FINEMAN: No, he wasn`t...

MATTHEWS: A lot of fellows out there (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: ... he was probably going to throw Herman Cain on the list.
They`re all possible credible candidates.

FINEMAN: Well, why should he, when the president had the opportunity
to give what as, at least in part, a gangbusters political speech before a
joint session of Congress, challenging the Republicans to do something. So
it`s not like Barack Obama is out of politics.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: But what -- he was trying to frame the debate before he ever
gets to a specific candidate because he`s running against a whole mindset
here.

MATTHEWS: OK. Look how wild this is, guys. And we all watch this
because we know how it`s important it is, but also, there`s an element of
game to this that is so stunning. Chris, you do this all the time. I love
your thing that Bachmann had the "worst week of the week" in "The
Washington Post" this Sunday...

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: ... because she certainly did. Look at her on this list.
In fact, where`s Waldo on this list? This is the latest CNN poll. Let`s
see, Rick Perry holding strong at number one, way ahead of Mitt Romney,
who`s a bit ahead of -- whoa! -- Sarah Palin -- she`s not even running and
look at her up at 15. She`s still got a following, certainly, out there.
Ron Paul, strong, consistent small following. Herman Cain a following.
Newt Gingrich a following. Guess who`s not on the list, Chris Cillizza?
Michelle Bachmann. She`s at 4.

CILLIZZA: I would say...

MATTHEWS: We didn`t -- we didn`t have room for her on our chart.
What happened?

CILLIZZA: I was going to say if you don`t make the first page of a
graphic that includes six candidates...

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: ... it`s rarely a good sign for you! Here`s what
happened...

MATTHEWS: If you don`t get ahead of Newt Gingrich, you will never be
president of the United States. You`ve got real problems.

CILLIZZA: Right. Or Herman Cain.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Go ahead.

CILLIZZA: Here`s what happened. She wins the Ames straw poll on
August 13th, but the bigger event that day is Rick Perry getting into the
race in South Carolina. He, I think -- he is Michele Bachmann 2.0, is what
I`ve been calling it. He`s conservative, and so Tea Party members like
him. But he`s also, they believe, electable.

You know, Chris, another number in that CNN poll -- they were asked,
Who has the best chance to beat Barack Obama? Forty-two percent said Rick
Perry.

FINEMAN: Of Republicans.

CILLIZZA: Romney got 26 percent. Forty-two percent of Republicans.
It speaks to the fact that he is, in their mind at the moment, both
conservative enough for them and can beat President Obama.

FINEMAN: Chris...

CILLIZZA: She never could make both sides of the argument. She was
certainly conservative enough, but people struggled to see her as...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And Chris and Howard, you and I, we all know this, that
people wonder about a guy or a woman who`s still only a congressperson.
It`s a very distinguished position. I would love to be a congressman. But
the fact is, congressmen are below, in the public mind, senators and
governors. And they must wonder, this is a heck of a jump. You want to go
from congressman to president of the United States?

FINEMAN: Yes. And...

MATTHEWS: It just never happens.


FINEMAN: And no matter how much she talks about her "titanium spine," it
doesn`t quite cut it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: But what impressed me about that...

MATTHEWS: Even though (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN: What impressed me about that list, if you look down the
list, they`re all hard-core Tea Party types of one kind or another...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... except for Mitt Romney. So that means everybody else on
that list -- you add up all the numbers on that list, you`re up to, like,
50, 60 percent or more...

MATTHEWS: So when it goes to the playoffs, what happens?

FINEMAN: Well, when it goes...

MATTHEWS: All those votes collapse around Rick Perry? Do they all go
to him?

FINEMAN: Yes, I think they`re going to go to -- if it turns out that
way, they`re going to go to Rick Perry.

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

FINEMAN: I think that shows better than any graphic how difficult
it`s going to be for Mitt Romney...

MATTHEWS: Thank you...

FINEMAN: ... who -- to win the nomination.

MATTHEWS: Everybody`s been doing (INAUDIBLE) last week about how
great Romney`s doing, how Perry`s in trouble...

FINEMAN: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... because of what he said about the Ponzi scheme. And
yet I think -- I think red-hot, right-wing Republicans want red-hot, right-
wing Republican candidates.

CILLIZZA: It hasn`t hurt him yet. Hasn`t hurt him yet.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it hasn`t hurt him yet. Let`s take a look -- here he
is, a "USA Today" op-ed on Social Security. Here`s what he said to try to
prune this a bit. Governor Rick Perry wrote, quote, "I am going to be
honest with the American. For too long, politicians have been afraid to
speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about
its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security" -- finally comes
the word he wants to fix it, not kill it -- "and make it financially viable
for generations to come."

So there, Chris Cillizza, you have it. He`s turned the circle. He`s
gone around and said, yes, this thing is a Ponzi scheme, in the sense that
with an older population and less younger voters, the old math of 3 to 1 or
4 to 1 worker bees for one retiree bee doesn`t work anymore. Now it`s
closer to 2 to 1. It`s getting very tricky to have enough workers out
there to pay for the retirees. Go ahead.

CILLIZZA: And of course, Chris, that is a point of view that is if
not broadly held, is certainly held by members of both parties. The
question is, can he close that circle? That is, what he has said in the
past is that the program was flawed from the start. Now, that`s different
than saying it`s now flawed and we need to reform it. Remember the other
thing, Chris...

MATTHEWS: Yes. It wasn`t flawed when people didn`t make it...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: ... Chris, in Florida, don`t forget -- there`s a debate
there tonight. There`s also going to be -- that could be the deciding
state in the primary process in 2012. A lot of seniors in that state going
to vote. That Social Security position may be less tenable for Perry there
than it might be in other places in the Republican primaries.

MATTHEWS: Columnist -- columnist -- excuse me -- columnist Byron
York, who`s a smart conservative, is saying that tonight Michele Bachmann
will go to war. She won`t do a tag team, she`s going right after -- after
Rick Carter -- (SIC)

FINEMAN: Well, you know...

MATTHEWS: ... Rick Perry.

FINEMAN: ... she`s got to attempt some kind of payback. Rick Perry
stole whatever thunder she was going to get out of Iowa...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, I just said Rick Perry, the former coach of Holy
Cross. And I was just thinking, Who won the Holy Cross-Colgate game this
weekend?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I think it was 38-8 Holy Cross, who`s now number one in the
Patriot League.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I think it was.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman, my good friend. And he
went to Colgate. It`s a hell of a school. It`s a hell of a school.
Anyway, thank you, Chris Cillizza for joining us.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Chris, I read you all the time.

Coming up -- you`re right, Bachmann had the worst week. Coming up:
Have the neocons learned their lesson? We`ll see. Sure as the turn (ph)
of the earth, here comes Dick Cheney. He`s the one member of the Bush
administration who ain`t giving up. He was for attacking Syria in 2007,
but he was all alone. And even John McCain now says America isn`t going to
war in the Middle East again.

Has the Republican Party moved on? Are we hearing a lot about, you
know, Foreign adventurism`s got to end? What a change in the clock.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Mitt Romney, talk about excitement, has picked up the
endorsement of former rival Tim Pawlenty, two little puddles of water
coming together, not exactly a splash. The former Minnesota governor
dropped out of the race last month after a disappointing finish in the Ames
straw poll. Pawlenty said today he made his endorsement based on Romney`s
economic experience and his belief that Romney would appeal -- would repeal
the federal health care bill and perhaps put him on the cabinet.

And in other endorsement news, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal --
there he is -- says he`s going with Perry. So looks like a -- a match
today.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Ten years after September 11 -- of
course, we marked it yesterday -- where are the neocons? The movement that
took the United States into war in Iraq isn`t a dominant a force even in
the Republican Party as it once was. If anything, its poster children like
Dick Cheney seem to have come from a different era of Republican politics.

In a DailyBeast article last month, Peter Beinart, who I believe
supported the war in the beginning, argued the movement is dead. "None of
the major candidates is attacking President Obama along neoconservative
lines. None is focusing on his withdrawal from Iraq or his timetable for
exiting Afghanistan or his refusal to bomb Iran. While they know they`re
supposed to call Obama an appeaser, they also know that even Republican
voters have had little appetite right now for the neoconservative agenda of
continue war in the Middle East."

Is the neocon movement dead? If so, has anyone told Cheney?

David Corn`s MSNBC political analyst and Washington bureau chief for
"Mother Jones." And Joe Conason, who was fabulous this morning, is editor
of Nationalmemo.com.

Joe, you were great this morning. You aren`t the happiest camper in
the world, but you said a couple of things that were brilliant this
morning. And I want to start with something you didn`t talk about. It
looks to me like the Republican Party is going through a weird kind of
change. I don`t know what it is, but they`ve changed. They`re attacking
foreign adventurism. They`ve even got terms for it. They`re getting
flighty about it, when they were the ones that marched like lemmings to war
in Iraq. What`s changed?

JOE CONASON, NATIONALMEMO.COM: Well, what`s changed is the attitude
of the public, Chris. I mean, you take any poll and you see that the war
in Afghanistan is not popular. Certainly, the war in Iraq lost popularity
a long time ago. And you know, even the war in Libya, which I think where
the president sort of tried to take a back seat to the international
coalition, also was not popular with most voters.

So the Republicans look at that, and being the very principled people
that they are, decided, Hey, we`re not to get behind any of those things we
used to get behind anymore. You know, even John McCain, who I do consider
a principled person in politics, said over the weekend, You know, the
American people just don`t have the stomach for these wars in the Middle
East anymore.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I know. No one argued more forcefully in support of
the neocon agenda of going to war in Iraq than Senator John McCain, yet
listen to what Senator McCain said this weekend on FOX. Here he is, what
Joe was talking about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But I also think we`ve learned a lot
of lessons, and frankly, I don`t think you`re going to see the United
States of America in another war in that part of the world. I don`t think
American public opinion would stand for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, that`s the John McCain that is sensitive to the
electorate, like he is on issues involving Hispanics and immigration. When
you sit down and listen to him, he`s very thoughtful.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, when he`s
not running in a Republican primary.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: But you know, Iraq turned out to be the Edsel of U.S. foreign
policy. You know, the neocons were the cheerleaders and they got the
administration going against a war that at first the public wasn`t that
much behind, although the public was...

MATTHEWS: But didn`t it...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: ... by 9/11.

MATTHEWS: But doesn`t it, to this day, you guys, still scare you in
your spine that a president with as slight a mental and as rhetorical
ability as George W. Bush -- he was no Churchill, he was no Hitler, he was
no Stalin, he was no call to arms kind of guy...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... was able to talk the American people into that war over
absolute B.S.?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: He didn`t talk them into it. He scared them into it. Dick
Cheney and others talking about a mushroom cloud, it was right after --
instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan, right before the November 2002
midterm elections, that`s when they started the push for that war. It was
-- it served their political purposes and it served whatever proactive need
the president had to lash out...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would somebody please tell me why went to war in Iraq?

Joe, can you tell me why we went to war in Iraq? I can`t tell it --
Cheney says he would have gone without WMD. At the time, they used WMD as
a selling piece for Europe and for a lot of middle-of-the-roaders in this
country. But why did they go?

CONASON: The practical reasons why we went to war in Iraq, Chris,
remain mysterious, I think, to everybody.

I mean, we spent upwards of $3 trillion on this project for no
discernible return. So it`s hard to say. I guess Cheney and others of his
ilk believed that we were going to transform the Middle East, perhaps in
our image, if we overthrew Saddam by force of arms.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CONASON: And that`s obviously been proved to be false. The Arab
spring, which may transform the Middle East, is the opposite of the war of
Iraq. It`s indigenous, grassroots, largely nonviolent.

And this has proved, I think, the neocons completely wrong from
beginning to end.

MATTHEWS: I think some of them just wanted to fight. You have people
-- and I don`t want to get into fights with Michael Ledeen and Daniel Pipes
-- but from the beginning, some of these guys, after we were hit, just
wanted to strike back at anything and everything.

Here`s Pipes that day. "There is no need to know the precise identity
of a perpetrator." How`s that for a statement?

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: "In war, there are times when one strikes first and asks
questions later."

Like, just go attack the Iroquois on the reservations. Just go attack
China, attack anybody and it somehow makes you feel good.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Daniel Pipes wasn`t in the government when he said that. Paul
Wolfowitz was.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: In those early meetings -- we have the records. It`s not a
mystery.

MATTHEWS: I know he did. I know.

CORN: What did he say? He said, forget about Afghanistan. Iraq,
Iraq will be easier. Iraq is the source of our problem.

It was -- they used 9/11 as an excuse to go after -- to engage in a
war they had been lobbying for, for years.

MATTHEWS: Well, here, Cheney is the heart -- is the seat of the
hurricane. Here he is acknowledging some of the intelligence, here it is,
they received in Iraq`s weapons program was wrong, but he stands by the
administration decision to attack.

NBC`s Jamie Gangel asked him, Cheney, about the decision. She pointed
out that lack of weapons of mass destruction didn`t sit well with President
Bush. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE GANGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: In his book, President Bush wrote he
had a -- quote -- "sickening feeling."

But you don`t seem to express the same reaction or regrets.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I
didn`t have a sickening feeling. I think we did the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s just what he says. He just says it, like a
god.

OK, here`s "Washington Post"`s Bob Woodward today. He took Vice
President Cheney to task today. Bob Woodward reported that, in 2007,
Cheney was the only member of the administration advocating an attack on a
Syrian nuclear facility. According to vice president`s memoir, this was
despite the fact that the CIA said it had low confidence that the site was
being used to create nuclear weapons. Had he learned nothing from Iraq and
the missing weapons of mass destruction?

And that`s my question to you, Joe. There he is right away. And, by
the way, Woodward just takes him to task for this.

CONASON: Well, you would almost think that Cheney was actually an
agent of the nation`s enemies, because everything that he advocates,
everything he wants us to do plays so perfectly into the hands of people
who hate America and who want to create propaganda against it.

I mean, it`s remarkable. This is an outlook that is -- has been
designed to damage our prestige. And that`s what it`s done over 10 years.

MATTHEWS: That`s what was said, by the way, of Joe McCarthy. You
couldn`t be a better friend to the communist in effect than Joe McCarthy.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: And even if he thought these threats were real and there was a
reason to go after them, if you look at how we handled the war, the
aftermath, what we did in Afghanistan or didn`t do in Afghanistan, they
messed it up every step of the way, not just the reasons to do it, but the
doing of it.

And so it set us back, and that`s not just because we attacked, but
because we were incompetent after the attack. So I don`t know -- everybody
Dick Cheney did was basically wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think we have got to give up on Dick Cheney.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: You brought him up, not me, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I think it`s going to take a Cambodia reeducation camp to
turn him around.

Anyway, I salute him for his obduracy, but he`s never been right on
this one.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn.

Thank you, Joe Conason.

CONASON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And I don`t really salute him, but I do like people that
believe something. I just don`t know what the heck he does believe.

Anyway, up next: Hillary Clinton answers the troublemakers -- boy,
they`re always doing this -- who are calling for her to challenge President
Obama in the Democratic primary, an old trick, an old Nixon trick, by the
way, like Kennedy was going to jump Johnson, all these tricks. It`s always
a troublemaking move. Let`s see that in the "Sideshow," how she responds.
She responds quite well.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: putting it to rest. Last week, former V.P. Dick Cheney
speculated on how Hillary Clinton would fare as the president of the United
States. Well, I think it`s sheer troublemaking on Cheney`s part. This is
the kind of trick Richard Nixon used to pull.

Here`s the secretary of state herself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: What`s the likelihood that you`re going to challenge
President Obama in the primary? You know, you have got Dick Cheney in your
court.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, yes, it`s below
zero.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: One of the great things about being secretary of state is, I
am out of politics. I am not interested in being drawn back into it by
anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a strong statement. Anyway, it`s nice to be
asked, but it sounds stupid after all to keep being asked.

I still bet on her to become -- Secretary Clinton, on becoming
president of the World Bank. I think it`s a great job. I think she will
get it.

And next up, the way it was. Former Vice President Al Gore got some
unexpected attention last week when 2012 candidate Ron Paul released an ad
criticizing his opponent Rick Perry for supporting Gore`s presidential
ambitions way back in 1988. Of course, the Al Gore of 1988 was notably
more conservative, if you will remember, than he became in later years.

But Perry`s backing of Gore does seem peculiar. In an interview with
"USA Today," Gore explains -- quote -- "I remember Rick Perry from that
campaign. He was one of a number of Democratic legislators who endorsed my
candidacy in 1988. And I was happy to have his support. I don`t know what
has happened to him since then."

Well, Gore went on to say that -- quote -- "People are free to change
their minds in politics. I will let the voters judge and make their own
interpretation of his explanation for his extreme shift in views."

Well, he got the knife in there.

Anyway, the response probably comes as good news to the Texas
governor. Imagine if Gore had endorsed Rick Perry. That would have been
trouble for Perry.

And now for the "Big Number" tonight. Talk about getting the word
out. The numbers are in and appears that President Obama drew quite a
crowd for his address in confronting the nation`s jobs crisis last week.
How many people tuned into that? Really amazing -- 31.4 million people --
31.4 million people. And despite all the hype about how the speech would
affect the football game that followed his speech, the president beat out
the opening night game in numbers, 31.4 million. That`s bigger than the
opening NFL game.

That`s tonight`s "Big Number."

Up next: Do Republicans really want President Obama`s jobs plan to
work? Are they willing to do something that helps the economy, really?
Would they really help him, no matter what he offered, and, with it, the
president`s reelection chances?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A late rally hoping to push stocks to a positive finish, with the Dow
Jones industrials climbing 69 points, the S&P 500 adding eight, and the
Nasdaq picking up 27. It looks like Europe might be driving the markets
again this week. Stocks were trading lower for most of the day on concerns
about a possible Greek debt default and also a potential ratings downgrade
for French banks.

Then you had a report that Italy is looking to China to help ease its
own debt problems, asking it to make some significant bond purchases and
invest in some of its strategic companies. In stocks, chipmakers were a
hot ticket after Broadcom said it`s buying NetLogic for more than $3.5
billion.

And publisher McGraw-Hill surged on word it will split into two public
companies by the end of 2012.

Elsewhere, Amazon is looking to launch a media library service, where
customers would pay an annual fee to access content on their tablets and e-
readers.

And that is it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide. I`m
going to hand you now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today, President Obama, surrounded by teachers, firefighters, and
construction workers, challenged Congress to pass his jobs bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No games, no politics,
no delays. I`m sending this bill to Congress today. And they ought to
pass it immediately.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But some Republicans are already out there bashing the
president`s plan, even before they have had a good look at it. One unnamed
senior House Republican aide told Politico -- quote -- "Obama is on the
ropes. Why do we all appear ready to hand him a win?"

In other words, don`t help him. He`s in trouble.

Will Republicans support Obama`s job plan and try to get America back
to work or will they just say no because they want the president to fail,
simply put?

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is chairman of the Democratic
National Committee. And U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a Democrat from
Northern California.

I want to start with the chairman.

Congresswoman Schultz, Wasserman Schultz, I just don`t know about
this. I sense some hesitation on the part of Boehner, the speaker, even
Eric Cantor, not to be out there trashing it too soon, yet I hear this
noise coming through the woodwork they`d love this thing to fail.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, you know, so far,
all I have seen from the Republican leadership, whether it`s the
presidential candidates or Speaker Boehner or Eric Cantor, is that they
care about one job, President Obama`s.

Democrats, President Obama care about American jobs. I`m a little
worried, Chris, that the Republican leadership is playing rope-a-dope here.
They know it`s unpopular to suggest that we shouldn`t pass a bill like the
American Jobs Act.

And I think that, you know, they are probably likely to just chop it
apart, take the deregulation of business, let the fox guard the henhouse
again, and repeat the same failed policies of the past, instead of
seriously considering President Obama`s sound proposal to invest in
infrastructure, to make sure we can put teachers, firefighters, other
first-responders, veterans and construction workers back to work, and make
sure that we can get this economy a shot in the arm that it needs, so we
can pick up the pace of recovery.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Lee, what I`m overwhelmed by is the hesitance
on Republicans who support business to support a business tax cut. Here
you have an employer payroll tax cut that the president is proposing, and
why don`t they just say, yes, that`s our stuff, that`s what we do?

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: They should, Chris, but I`m
reminded always of what Senator Mitch McConnell said last year. And he
said their first priority, of course, was to make sure that President Obama
was a one-term president.

So, anything that they do is within that context. And so, now, again,
we are hearing that they`re going to pick this jobs bill apart. They have
not proposed one single jobs measure. Also, I`m reminded that, in their
districts, they have people who are unemployed. They have people who are
desperate for help. And so I don`t know how they`re going to get away with
it, with the public, Chris.

This is a jobs bill that should move forward immediately and
Republicans should support it, Democrats should support it, and we should
move forward to help the American people. When you look at the
unemployment rates in the country and in the minority communities, people
want to work. It`s a moral disgrace. And so we have to move forward.

But, again, I`m reminded and I want to remind everyone that Senator
McConnell said that their first priority was to make sure that President
Obama was a one-term president. And so, once again, I hope we don`t see
this, but what we`re hearing is they could be obstructionists to this very
good plan.

MATTHEWS: Well, we also know that there`s work out there that needs
being done. We`re going to go every night -- every time the president goes
anywhere, we`re going to point out the bridges, for example, in the
districts he`s going to, Eric Cantor`s on Friday, Speaker Boehner`s
tomorrow.

I have been saying Obama, the president, should call attention to
those projects -- 95 bridges in Speaker Boehner`s district tomorrow, where
he visits, have to be fixed. He should tell the people in that district to
tell their congressman, who happens to be speaker of the House, to get to
work. There`s work being done.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, I just think this is part of the
missing message that your crowd isn`t making. It`s not just people need to
work. There`s work that needs to be done. It`s not leaf raking or digging
holes and filling them.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s bridges that are actually in decrepit shape that
are going to fall down, just like the one described as structurally
deficient, the category I`m talking about here, that happened in Minnesota.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Chris, there`s roads that are clogged with
traffic, too. I mean, I did a press conference in my district a couple of
weeks ago with a small business owner, a mom, like me, who talked about how
difficult it was for her to get her -- to her son`s football game on time,
leaving work over an hour before when she was pretty close by because the
roads are clogged, the bridges need to be fixed.

And, you know, this is slowing our economy down, not making sure that
we have an efficient transportation system. We should all be for this. I`m
hoping that when Barbara and I go back to Washington this week, that the
Republicans will take this seriously, that they will recognize this for the
shot in the arm for the economy that it is, and they will embrace the tax
breaks as well as the pay-for, because the pay-for is critical, too. We
have to make sure that the wealthiest and most fortunate Americans and
everyone is paying their fair share to get things turned around.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let`s take a look at the GOP has already
devised a tough political strategy, rebranding the jobs bill another
stimulus bill. Here they are using the old language to try to kill it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: The president is now talking about
adding $450 billion in the next year or two as an additional stimulus plan.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: The president`s speech comes
on the heels of $1 trillion of failed stimulus, bailouts, and temporary
gimmicks that have been aimed at creating jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: I mean, Congresswoman Lee, Bachmann, for example, one of
the Republican candidates -- she`s not doing so well, the congresswoman --
she says things like, just stop. In other words, Obama, the president of
the United States, he isn`t supposed to do anything. He`s supposed to wait
around for a Republican to replace him, basically, in 2013.

That`s her prescription, basically, for the president of the United
States. Don`t do anything. Wait for us to take over.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, the president, certainly, is
not listening to what Michele Bachmann`s prescription is. He`s moving
forward to create jobs.

And let me just say, jobs -- creating jobs is the biggest deficit
reducer that we have, putting money in people`s pockets, giving people the
ability to work on a good-paying jobs with benefits really helps with our
national debt. It`s really a shame and disgrace, once again, that the
Republicans really don`t understand that this is a moral issue. People
want to work and they should work.

And so, whatever Michele Bachmann is saying, you know, that`s just
campaign rhetoric. I think the country is ready for a jobs program, a jobs
bill, people want to work, this investment in our jobs, and in our schools,
Chris.

Our schools are dilapidated. Some young people in our country are
going to schools that we wouldn`t even want our children to go to. And so
this bill also has a direct investment into rehabilitating our schools.
And that is so important for our young people. It`s so important for our
teachers and our first responders, and people to be able to work in the
public sector.

And so, this bill, while it may not be enough for myself, you know,
it should have been more, but I understand the political realities of what
we`re dealing with. And so the Republicans need to come together and look
out for their constituents, look out for the country, and work with us to
create jobs.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman
Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and U.S.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee from up there in northern California, the
Berkeley area. Thank you very much for joining us.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: President Obama goes to Ohio tomorrow. We`re going to
have the full list tomorrow of all 95 bridges, we`re going to show you the
names of the bridges that are structurally deficient -- in other words, in
big trouble -- in Boehner`s own district. He`s got to remember the old
rule, all politics is local. He`s not just speaker of the House, he`s a
local congressman and has to look out for those bridges. Well, we`re
talking facts here.

Up next this weekend, September 11th memorial services saw America`s
leaders come together, regardless of political party. President Obama
stood side by side with President Bush at Ground Zero, and Bill Clinton
teamed up with John Boehner to finish the memorial in Shanksville,
Pennsylvania, for Flight 93.

I was there. Boy, it was great to see the team spirit of the
American people there and the strong feelings of Pennsylvanians.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, Democrats are increasingly worried that they will
lose tomorrow`s special election for the House seat once held by Anthony
Weiner. Recent polling out of the New York`s ninth district shows
Republican Bob Turner with a lead over Democrat David Weprin. That`s a
district that should be reliably Democratic. Maybe this is the response to
what they don`t think of Weiner.

Anyway, Weprin, the Democratic in the race has made a string of
gaffes during the campaign. But if Republicans win, they`ll be no doubt to
try to pin it on President Obama whose approval in the district is down in
the 30s.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: For generations, people will
study the flight, the story of Flight 93. They will learn that individual
choices make a difference, that love and sacrifice can triumph over evil
and hate, and that what happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among
the most courageous acts in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was former President George W. Bush really being masterful and
wonderful on Saturday at an event dedicating the Flight 93 memorial in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Although the site was open, has opened, $10
million is still needed to finish the memorial where the plane crashed on a
hillside in southwest Pennsylvania.

Former President Bill Clinton announced he and Speaker John Boehner
will help meet that goal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Since I am no longer in
office, I can do unpopular things. I told the secretary of the interior,
the head of your development program that I was aghast to find out we still
need to raise $10 million to finish this place, and Speaker Boehner and I
have already volunteered to do a bipartisan event in Washington. Let`s get
the show on the road. Let`s roll.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael Smerconish, a nationally syndicated radio host and
an MSNBC political analyst, who was with me in Shanksville on Saturday.
Welcome, Michael.

I see you smiling. It doesn`t take much from Bill Clinton. All it
takes is once impulse and the guy can move mountains.

You`ve been trying to raise money for that incredible memorial out
there. It`s way out in the middle of really nowhere. There`s nothing else
around. A former strip mine, filled in now. It`s an open field,
basically.

And it`s where that plane crashed, where those 40 people stood up
against terrorism. The first Americans really to know what was going on on
9/11 and went out there, defiantly, and at the risk and ultimately at the
loss of their lives, really challenged the bad guys.

Michael, your thoughts. You have a lot invested in this.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a 2,200-acre site,
as you mentioned, a former strip mine. There were initially some problems,
Chris, in pulling together the parcels, because many of them were in
private hands and people were anxious to get top dollar. But in the end,
the Park Service, I think, has done a terrific job.

And what`s amazing is that 130,000 people have been showing up
annually when, frankly, there`s not much to physically see, but there`s a
lot to feel and experience. And now that you`ve been there, I think you
probably know what I`ve been describing as that aura that you get when you
walk frankly on the first battlefield in the war against terror.

MATTHEWS: And so much, the idea that those people went into
oblivion, basically, physically, lost their lives as that plane crashed at
580 miles an hour upside down, going into a tree line, hitting the soft
dirt there and end up that you couldn`t tell the people apart basically
except through DNA evidence. And they had that graveyard there basically
without any distinguishing marks for individual people. It`s a communal
graveyard, if you will, of people.

And we`re not even sure historically which of the passenger had the
most guts, who were the leaders. We know as a group they went to the front
of that plane and confronted the guys who were armed. They weren`t
warriors. They weren`t -- they were just civilians stuck on a terrible
situation who showed soldierly courage.

SMERCONISH: I think understated is the way I would describe in the
way in which the monument is coming together, the tribute. Paul Murdock,
who`s a California designer, was a winning proposer out of the about 1,100
submitted.

And I think it`s very tasteful the way that it`s being created. It`s
not overdone and it speaks, Chris, well to the surrounding areas, those
gorgeous Pennsylvania farms that you saw as you drove in on that access
road. It`s a gorgeous part of the country. And I think that the memorial
is in keeping with the surrounding area. No commercialization.

As I joked to you on Saturday, it`s hard to even go out and buy a
sandwich somewhere, much less a t-shirt.

MATTHEWS: Yes. There are not honky-tonk at all, as you pointed out
Saturday.

SMERCONISH: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s no -- there`d be a minimal attempt to get
refreshment somewhere. But I`ll tell you, there`s none of that honky-tonk
you see at other places with important events.

Michael, let`s put up on the screen right now what people can do
about this, because this is not just a news item right now. I want to help
on this thing. If you`d like to contribute to the Flight 93 Memorial
campaign, you can go to www -- here`s important stuff, one word --
honorflight93. Honorflight93.com. I`m sorry, dot-org rather. It`s
honorflight93.org.

Or you can donate $10 right now by texting the word "memorial" to
90999 -- 90999, memorial. Right now, there`s a special campaign right now
to match your contributions dollar for dollars. So, it`s the perfect time
to show your support.

Michael, why did you get involved in this besides the obvious? How
did you get into this thing?

SMERCONISH: In my case, it was -- it was 6 years ago, there was now
I know a contrived controversy on the Internet, where some were saying from
an aerial perspective there`s going to be an Islamic crescent that apparent
in the design. I loaded up a bus of listeners, drove, you know, five hours
out, five hours back, we got out there, surveyed the topography. Jeff
Reinhold (ph) from the National Parks Service explained to me exactly why
the design was taking the shape it was taking.

And I was just a devotee of the site ever since I met the people
involved in it. Those community docents who volunteer their time, to do
nothing but school out of towners into the story of Flight 93. And I`ve
been going back ever since.

And one of the great privileges that I took, that I had was to take
Jose Melendez Perez out there with me, who prevented the fifth terrorist
from being aboard the flight.

And, Chris, 18 minutes in travel time is all that separates
Shanksville from Washington, D.C.

MATTHEWS: It could have hit the Capitol; it could have hit White
House, who knows what they could have done. And these people stopped it.
You never know what you do in such a circumstance.

We know what these people did. That`s why we`re honoring them. They
had the guts, they had what Hemingway called "grace under pressure," these
regular people stood up like soldiers.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Smerconish, for being a great American, as
always.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for putting up the information.

MATTHEWS: Honorflight93.org. It is honorflight93.org. That Web
site again, honorflight93.org.

When we return, we finish with the intrigue, I have to call it that,
surrounding the Jackie Kennedy tapes, and what we`re learning by hearing
the former first lady speak. Boy, did she rarely speak. Now, she is on
these tapes in her own voice.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JACQUELINE KENNEDY: Bobby told me this later, and I know Jack said
it to me sometimes. He said, "Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would
happen to the country if Lyndon was president?" So many times he would say
if or if there was a problem.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with the intrigue about the
Jacqueline Kennedy tapes. I`m personally transfixed by them. I`ve been
studying Jack Kennedy, who he was, what he was like to be with for years.

His wife obviously saw a side of him others didn`t. They had two of
them, a fine intellectual relationship, batting comments back and forth
about the people around them all the time, enjoying the life they shared, a
life, of course, at the very top.

Yes, they were quite a pair in public, but imagine their back-and-
forth in private over the sound of old Jack Kennedy`s record player. And
while the tapes haven`t come out yet, the whiffs that have gotten out
confirm some interesting stuff. One is that Jacqueline Kennedy knew her
husband pretty well, more than most people knew him at least, and in a
different way. She called him that unforgettable elusive man -- elusive he
certainly was.

And she again more than anyone knew how many sides to him there were.
The idealist was just a big part of it. But not only one, and it was only
one side of him, she knew that. She said that all men are a combination of
bad and good.

She was taken with how Jack prayed on his knees each night before
going to bed, how he went to church religiously, all his life, how he went
to confession regularly, even as I discovered he had to sneak in among the
Secret Service agents, so the priest didn`t recognize his voice as he once
did.

As a fellow Catholic, I understand him having found this out,
especially given all the rest we have learned. I knew that his views about
Lyndon Johnson were complicated, too. He picked him against the wishes of
his brother Bobby and a lot of liberals, yet he liked Johnson, and he knew
he needed him.

Jack`s last political conversation on earth was driving to the
airport on Ft. Worth that late November where he was in the car trying to
figure out why Ft. Worth had been so welcoming to him that morning and why
Dallas was so red-hot right wing. He was to the end, Jack Kennedy, a
student of politics, knowing what he needed and how he needed to carry
Texas, trying to figure it all out -- just as so many people are trying to
figure out Texas today.

And just as Barack Obama may be thinking how much he`d rather run
against the right wing Rick Perry of Texas than the more mainstream Mitt
Romney, Jack Kennedy in his day was hoping to run again the hard-right
Barry Goldwater, worried about taking on the popular moderate Governor
Nelson Rockefeller of New York.

I`ve been spending a lot of time over the past years trying to figure
out Jack Kennedy, what he was really like, what he was like to be with in a
room. My big book comes out November 1st. Those tapes of Jacqueline
Kennedy confirm a lot of what I`ve discovered from her and others. It will
be fascinating to sit and hear this woman who rarely spoke publicly give
her take and share her memories of all we went through in this country
together in those great days.

That`s HARDBALL for now.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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