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updated 9/29/2011 12:08:44 PM ET 2011-09-29T16:08:44

Guests: Veronica De La Cruz, Howard Fineman, Joan Walsh, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Mimi Swartz, Wayne Slater, Russ Suskind

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Crying for Christie, appalled by Palin.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Here it is, desperate Republicans. Who would
have ever thought that we`d wind up comparing Chris Christie to Sarah
Palin? Palin has made a career of not quite running and not quite not
running for president. Well, last night, she said being president might --
and these are her words -- "shackle" her. Shackle her? What is she
talking about? Running for president shackles someone?

Meanwhile, Christie can`t say yes but won`t say no to Republicans so
miserable about their candidates list that they`re begging him to run.
Tonight, the two big Republican teases.

Also, Republicans can`t stop charging President Obama with playing the
class warfare card. Well, hey (ph) what. Keep (ph) the kettle black.
Anyway, for the last three decades, Republican policy has helped to enrich
the wealthy and lower their tax burden. Who`s the really guilty party on
this?

Plus, Rick Perry`s Texas-sized problem. "The New York Times" Sunday
magazine reports that some Texas Republicans feel burned by "W" and want no
part of another cowboy-booted G-dropping governor.

And no book has gotten under the skin of the Obama administration more
than "Confidence Men" by Ron Suskind. We`re going to give Suskind a chance
to respond to the White House pushback.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with the choice President Obama needs
to make, please his base or aim for the middle.

We start with desperate Republicans. Boy, are they desperate. Howard
Fineman`s an MSNBC political analyst and the Huffington Post Media Group
editorial director. And Joan Walsh is Salon.com editor-at-large.

I want to start with the big cry (ph) story that hasn`t been quite
been told. If they`re so horny for Christie, if they`re going crazy about
this often overlooked character from Jersey, now they`re in love with a guy
they don`t even actually know, but they know he`s sarcastic -- doesn`t that
tell you they`re crying in their sleep, that these people, you know, can`t
get no satisfaction?

They hate the list they`ve been given. They keep looking for somebody
to relieve them of the boredom of running with Romney, the frightening
possibilities of Rick Perry and whoever else they get stuck with. They
don`t like their list.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they have that
right, Chris, and all the polls show it. Mitt Romney is not beloved, even
by people who are supporting him for now. Rick Perry had a huge run-up,
but is running down just about as fast as he ran up. The Republicans think
they have a great opportunity.

And talking to people around Chris Christie, you know, they`ve told
others, If he were interested, would you be willing to go? But that
doesn`t mean Chris Christie himself is going to do it.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go to Joan on this. This is the question. It
looks like they are so out of love with what they`ve got.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: And this is terrible for Mitt Romney, too,
because it keeps some of the money, the big donors on the sidelines.
There`s a clear clamor for Christie from guys like Ken Langone (ph) and
some of the really serious people, and of course, David Koch. This
populist Chris Christie has a lot, a lot of wealthy backers.

And Romney just can`t close the deal. You know, every time you think
he`s got some good luck -- Donald Trump`s not going to run, and that was a
joke anyway, Perry gallops in and everybody loves him and now he`s really
blown his chance to make a good impression. Romney seems to just stand
there and smile and say, yes, this is going to be mine, and then it`s not.
Somebody`s always there to try to take it away from him. We`ll see. I
doubt Christie gets in, but it`s got to be really tempting to him.

MATTHEWS: It`s like the guy that keeps asking out the woman and they
-- the woman keeps saying, I`m washing my hair tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what the comparison is. I guess I`ve never
heard that, but --

WALSH: I get it.

MATTHEWS: -- if I did, I`d be miserable. Anyway, last night at the
Reagan library --

WALSH: It`s a bad thing.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s not a good excuse! Anyway, Chris Christie seemed
intentionally vague about a presidential run. He is out there teasing
after being implored by a supporter right there to get in this race. Let`s
listen to the back-and-forth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say this from the bottom of my heart, for my
daughter, who`s right here, and my grandchildren who are at home. I know
New Jersey needs you, but I really implore you. I really do. And this
isn`t funny. I mean this with all my heart. We can`t wait another four
years to 2016.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I -- I really implore you as a citizen of
this country to please, sir, to reconsider.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: That heartfelt message you gave
me is also not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside
me. And so that`s what I`ve said all along is I know without ever having
met President Reagan that he must have felt deeply in his heart that he was
called to that moment to lead our country. And so my answer to you is just
this. I thank you for what you`re saying, and I take it in and I`m
listening to every word of it and feeling it, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow! This is getting to be high drama here. NBC`s
political unit reports, by the way, in "First Read" -- you are chuckling!
Anyway, I knew those crocodile tears weren`t for real a minute ago there,
Joan, about the troubles and tribulations of the right-wing money machine.

WALSH: Very sad.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, a Republican close to Christie told "First Read"
here that you could interpret those words we just heard as him
reconsidering.

Howard, he looks like -- here he is at the Reagan library, giving a
speech on American exceptionalism at the request of our friend, Nancy
Reagan. I think she might have been in the first row. He looked to be
looking down at her. He really wants to be out in the front ring being
asked.

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, if you watched the speech or read the speech,
that was a campaign speech. Now, it was tailored for a specific spot,
which is the Reagan library, but what better spot for a Republican to
tailor a campaign speech for than that? He gave several paragraphs in
there of explaining why he thought his record in New Jersey was the kind
that would save the country, if not the world. Everything in that speech
was the campaign announcement except for the line, "And therefore, I`m
running."

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Right.

FINEMAN: Talking to people around him, some guys who worked for him
in his governor`s race -- close people around him have said, Would you be
available if he were to decide to do it? Now, that was last night. My
reporting today is nothing`s happened today. He`s out there raising money
for the New Jersey party in California. He`s having a party in Beverly
Hills to raise money for the New Jersey party.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: He`s in Missouri. He`s in Louisiana. He`s moving around
the country --

MATTHEWS: OK --

FINEMAN: -- in a way that leaves open the possibility still.

WALSH: He is now --

MATTHEWS: By the way --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Joan, your thought?

WALSH: Well, he`s got to be careful not to start -- we`re comparing
him to Sarah Palin, but that comparison is going to start to stick if he
doesn`t make a decision.

I sat here and listened to that answer, and that woman was -- you
know, it was a cry from the heart, and there had been other cries from the
wallet, and he`s hearing a lot of this. He`s either got to shut it down or
do it.

MATTHEWS: Well --

FINEMAN: Yes.

WALSH: I think it`s going to start to be a little bit annoying to
Republicans --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: -- that he`s basking in the spotlight. He loves it, but he`s
hurting the party at a certain point.

MATTHEWS: Joan, let`s go to your point. Here it is. Last night,
Christie referred supporters to a video mash-up -- in other words, a
collage -- of all his statements. It was on Politico. If you want to know
whether he`ll run for president, here`s part of his answer. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: No way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to run?

CHRISTIE: No.

Not going to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re still saying categorically not running --

CHRISTIE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- in 2012.

CHRISTIE: I`m not running.

I`m 100 percent certain I`m not going to run.

I don`t want to run. I don`t feel like I`m ready to run.

First you have to have -- in your heart, you got to want it more than
anything else, more than anything else. I don`t want it that badly.

You have to believe in your heart and in your soul and in your mind
that you are ready, and I don`t believe that about myself right now.

You have to believe, as I`ve said before, in your heart and in your
mind that you`re ready, and I don`t believe that I am.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Sarah Palin said she`s still deciding on a
presidential run on last night`s "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren.
Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FOX CONTRIBUTOR: I`m going to keep
repeating though, Greta, through my process of decision-making with my
family and with my close friends as to whether I should throw my name in
the hat for the GOP nomination or not for 2012, is a title worth it? Does
a title shackle a person?

Are they -- someone like me, who`s maverick -- you know, I do go rogue
and I call it like I see it, and I don`t mind stirring it up. Somebody
like me, is a title and is a campaign too shackling? Does that prohibit me
from being out there, out of a box, not allowing handlers to shape me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know what it sounds like? You get into "shackle" and
that weirdness and all those handlers, she`s basically saying her choice is
whether to be Annie Oakley out there, sort of a popular Western cultural
figure, or someone who`s running for office. But she acts like she`ll
never win because she says it`s just a title.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: We`re talking about running for president to win, and she
still sees it as some sort of derby you enter for fun and you get a lot of
attention, Howard.

FINEMAN: Well, I think her comment shows her own belief in the
implausibility --

MATTHEWS: Of winning.

FINEMAN: -- of winning and her ever being president. So she just --
she wouldn`t be shackled to the presidency. Presumably, she`d want the
presidency --

MATTHEWS: Yes, you would think.

WALSH: Right.

FINEMAN: You`d --

MATTHEWS: Joan, your thoughts on this. Why would she talk about
shackles --

FINEMAN: Very revealing. Very revealing.

MATTHEWS: -- and a title? The presidency, ladies and gentlemen, is
not a title.

WALSH: It`s not a title.

MATTHEWS: It`s an amazing role in the world.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Why does she use that word?

WALSH: Because she doesn`t really want it and she knows she`s not
ready. She should be honest, like Chris Christie. She clearly sees
herself as having this incredible freedom and she doesn`t want to buckle
down to the discipline of running a campaign, let alone being president.
You really can`t go rogue as a president.

So I actually thought that that might be the clearest statement we`ve
ever had as to why -- she`s simply not running because to put it out like
that -- that`s her thought process? Well, I can answer that question for
her, and so can you and so can Howard. You don`t want to run if you want
to continue to go rogue and be unshackled.

MATTHEWS: Right. By the way, I think it`s hurting her here among the
people who normally would give her a shot here, at least a thought.

Here`s Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt. They were on "RACHEL
MADDOW" last night on our network. They both had high-ranking positions,
of course, in the McCain-Palin campaign and were critical of Palin, in
Steve`s case, of the process by which Palin got on the ticket.

Let`s listen. She`s not getting a lot of respect right now. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: I think that is there have
been failures in the vice presidential vetting process, and I was involved
in one of them.

NICOLLE WALLACE, FMR. MCCAIN-PALIN CAMPAIGN: My advice for anyone,
but particularly for her -- and she has a whole nest of problems that would
-- you know, that she`d have to confront, but the first one would be to
resist her most partisan and most polarizing instincts because that would
make her the wrong candidate for the moment.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Does she have anything to offer beyond that?

WALLACE: Look, you know, I was inspired by her to write a book about
someone who was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, so don`t ask me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So in other words, she`s -- let me go to you, Joan, first.
She was too -- she was "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." She`s basically saying
she`s a ditz, I guess. And the question is, why are these people now
coming out of the woodwork and trashing her more openly, like Steve
Schmidt`s more open now, because she`s played this too long?

WALSH: Well, I think they`ve been trashing her from inside the
campaign at the very end, to be honest with you, Chris. They really --
they really, really got tired of her before the election. Neither of them
has had a nice word to say about her.

I really -- I admire Nicole for saying what she said because it`s,
like, Don`t come to me for a fair and balanced appraisal of Sarah Palin.
She`s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

But you know, I think that they feel -- but now they`ve been joined by
a lot of other people who feel, A, she`s really not ready, and B, she`s
playing this out. She`s making a lot of money. She`s loving the
attention. But she has no intention of getting in. And she should shut it
down, too.

If you care about the Republican Party -- and I do, they`re an
important institution in our country -- you make a decision right now. You
don`t -- you don`t draw this out unless it`s all about you and all about
your glory. Then it must be a lot of fun.

MATTHEWS: I thought she was going to jump in on behalf of Rick Perry
at some point when he needed her. Now I don`t know what she`s up to. What
do you think, Howard?

WALSH: Yes.

FINEMAN: Well, I -- I don`t know. I think it`s impossible to say.
I`ve not -- I`ve thought for a long time she wasn`t running. I just think
she doesn`t want the discipline of it, as Joan was saying.

I think in the case of Chris Christie -- right now, one of the -- the
land that I call Murdochistan, you know, which is Fox, and you know, "Wall
Street Journal" and all that -- those people, that whole crowd in New York
loves, loves, loves Chris Christie.

But Joan`s right. If he`s going to just screw around with them, he
needs to cut it off because eventually, they`ll get mad at him for doing
it.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s running now for vice president. The way it`s
going, he`s going to get asked to go on the ticket with either Perry or
Romney.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Joan Walsh. And
Christie better start thinking about that because he`s revving himself for
an offer, and he better accept it after all this.

Coming up: Republicans keep saying President Obama is playing class
politics or class warfare. But for 30 years, if you look at the numbers,
Republicans have helped make the rich richer in this country by lowering
their taxes. Just look at the numbers. So let`s find out who`s really
waging this class warfare.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you can mark your calendars now. The first
nominating contests of the Republican campaign are likely just 100 days
away now. The Republican Party originally scheduled the Iowa caucuses and
New Hampshire primary in February, but that`s out the window now that
Florida has moved up its primary to January 31st. That means Iowa will
leapfrog to the first or second week in January, about 100 days from now,
with New Hampshire shortly thereafter. So this campaign`s going on this
fall.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this is going to be hot. Back to HARDBALL. We`re
here with our two top strategists to debate our two big topics. First,
there`s no doubt that wealthy Americans have increased their wealth while
their taxes have decreased the last few decades, so are Republicans right
to call Obama`s tax plan "class warfare?"

And new Battleground polling shows that Obama is now neck and neck
with Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Can the
president be reelected without those two all-important states, Ohio and PA?

Let`s ask the HARDBALL strategists. First (INAUDIBLE) obviously, they
are Democrat Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Very good now.
There -- you guys are out calling Obama a class warrior. Why?

TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Because he is. Look, if -- when
you go around the country talking about millionaires and billionaires and
corporate jets and hedge fund managers and big oil and you`re firing up --

MATTHEWS: Is that like talking about Welfare queens?

HARRIS: -- and you`re firing up your --

MATTHEWS: Is that like talking about Welfare queens?

HARRIS: Yes, well, that`s class warfare, too.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HARRIS: And you`re firing up your liberal base, that`s class warfare.
When you pit one class against the other, that`s the definition of class
warfare. What I don`t understand is why the Obama administration is
getting so worked up over what Republicans are deciding to label this.

MATTHEWS: By the way, aren`t a lot of Republicans out there bitching,
to use a word, about the poor people aren`t paying any taxes now? I keep
hearing Orrin Hatch --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`ve never heard that kind of attack -- they`re attacking
poor people!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s not class warfare against --

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: These poor people don`t make --
don`t make enough money to -- to pay taxes, so we resent them for it. And
so -- I mean, it`s a little -- it`s a little class warfare-ish, if you
will.

The president really is just doing something that Democrats have
always done, which is talking about how the wealthier among us ought to be
willing to pay their fair share. And for generations, the wealthy among us
were. And I actually think that many of the wealthy among us still are,
but the Republicans don`t want to do it.

And they`re talking about these -- they`re talking about jets, they`re
talking about Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary
because it`s something that people can understand, and it`s something that,
frankly, people don`t like very much. When they find out --

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the president -- you can respond to this,
Todd. Here`s the president earlier this week hitting Republicans for using
the "class warfare" argument against him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans are going
around talking about, Well, that`s class warfare. You know what? If
asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber is class
warfare, then sign me up!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Sign me up! I`ll wear that charge as a badge of honor! The
only warfare I`ve seen waged is against the middle class in this family
(SIC), an ordinary family!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Answer that.

HARRIS: If this were an economic argument, that he actually believed
that -- that this -- this would be good economically for the country, then
he wouldn`t have been opposed to this exact thing two years ago.

MCMAHON: Oh --

HARRIS: Hold on! When he said raising taxes in the middle of a
reception -- recession will dry up economic demand and put business deeper
in a hole, it`s a bad idea. So two years ago, he thought it was a bad
idea. Now he`s on the verge of an election. Suddenly, it`s a good idea.

MATTHEWS: But you never want the Bush taxes to end.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You never want them to end!

HARRIS: I -- I --

MATTHEWS: Can they end in two years? Can they end in two years, the
tax cuts?

HARRIS: Look --

MATTHEWS: End in three years?

HARRIS: Look --

MATTHEWS: When do you want them to end, the Bush tax cuts for the
rich?

HARRIS: Let`s put tax reform on the table. Let`s close --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So you never want the tax --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Ever.

MCMAHON: Todd has cleverly done what Republicans always do, which is
conflate personal individual income tax rates with -- with corporate tax
rates.

The corporate tax rates in the United States, the president actually
has said we should lower. He did say it isn`t a good idea to raise them in
a recession. But we`re talking about individuals like Warren Buffett,
hedge fund managers who are paying 15 percent, when the plumber and the
secretary are paying 25 percent or 30 percent. And the president is saying
that`s not fair. Most Americans think it`s not fair. And the Republicans
refuse to repeal those tax breaks.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s look at some numbers now. I was talking about the
numbers.

As you can see, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans in the United
States increased their share of the income -- income generally from just
under 10 percent of the country in `79 to nearly 23 percent, so they are
getting a bigger chunk of the apple here.

At the same time their tax burden has dropped from 37 percent in `79
down to 31 percent. So their taxes are getting lighter and their wallet is
getting bigger.

HARRIS: Look, if Democrats want to soak the rich, and Democrats want
this to be their message, that`s fine. Run on that. It`s a loser. Al
Gore tried it, you know, people, not power.

MATTHEWS: So why are you getting mad about it?

HARRIS: I`m not.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: What I don`t understand is why they don`t just embrace the
label. It`s class warfare. After all the hope, change --

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: The label doesn`t matter, Todd.

HARRIS: But that`s right. After all the hope and change and promise
of Obama, it`s come down to debating the definition of class warfare?
That`s what this --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It could have something to do with you guys spending the
last three years sticking it to him.

But here. Look at the battlegrounds. Let`s talk politics now, the
battleground states. I want you to start here. Quinnipiac, great polling,
they have come out with this. Ohio Republicans, potential matchup. Here
they are. President Obama leads Texas Governor Rick Perry 44-41 within the
margin of error there. Also a dead heat is Obama-Romney race. President
Obama has a 44 percent to Romney`s 42 percent, again within the margin of
error. These are close.

What do you make of that?

MCMAHON: Well, this election is going to be --

MATTHEWS: That`s Ohio.

MCMAHON: It`s going to be a lot more like the Kerry/Bush election
than the Obama election of 2008.

This is going to be a hard-fought, disqualify your opponent kind of a
campaign. The president needs to win Pennsylvania, but the Republicans
need to win Ohio, because if they don`t win Ohio, it creates a very
difficult path for them.

MATTHEWS: You have cut to the quick here. Can the Democrats win
reelection, can the president stay in for four more years if he loses Ohio?

HARRIS: You would have to come up with something.

MATTHEWS: How?

HARRIS: You would have to pick up other states that -- if you`re
losing --

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: If you win Florida, you can win without Ohio, but it becomes
a two or three electoral vote margin. The president has to win
Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Florida is harder to get than Ohio.

MCMAHON: Florida is harder to get than Ohio.

MATTHEWS: So why would that happen? Let`s get back to this, Ohio.
Tim Russert was brilliant at this, figuring out the state that would matter
the most. What do you think it is now?

HARRIS: It`s -- I would say Florida, Pennsylvania or Ohio.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HARRIS: It`s going to be one of those.

MCMAHON: Whoever wins two out of three -- whoever wins two out of
three of those is probably the president of the United States.

HARRIS: The problem is if the president loses a state like
Pennsylvania, that`s going to be a barometer that things have gone really
bad in a whole lot of areas.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, I think you`re right. But here`s an interesting
point. And I didn`t want to trick you into this because, Todd, you`re
smart as I am about politics.

And you`re almost as smart as I am.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This thing about -- here we are talking about an election
like this, like this, 50/50, 51/49. Is it going to be like that? Or is
that a bad assumption? Could it be a wipeout against the president if the
economy stays stinking like this? I don`t know.

HARRIS: Well, as you know, you can have elections that are very, very
close in terms of the vote, but still look like a wipeout in terms of the
Electoral College.

MATTHEWS: We`re talking popular vote here too.

HARRIS: I think popular vote, I think it is going to be very, very
close.

MATTHEWS: Why does the president survive after all this bad economic
news? How can he manage to a 50/50 situation out of an economy with 9.1
percent unemployment and holding?

HARRIS: Well, he will have his base and the fact is, as much as we
would love to run solely against the president, and we will make this
campaign a referendum on him, you know, you can`t run against somebody with
nobody. And so --

MCMAHON: That`s it, nobody.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So the Democrats -- you guys have a campaign. You know who
you`re going to run against, Obama. You just don`t have a candidate.

You guys have a candidate, but you`re not sure how to run yet.

MCMAHON: Well, we have an incumbent --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We`re going to debate that Monday night here, by the way,
the great Democratic debate. You will probably be invited because I think
the Democrats haven`t figured out whether to go down the middle, slightly
to the left like Harry Truman or all the way to the left like Roosevelt.
Where do you run?

MCMAHON: Right now what the president is doing, he`s running a
primary candidate without an opponent to gin up the base and to get his
fund-raising numbers up, because he`s going to raise $1 billion. And then
he will move to the middle in the fall because he has to

MATTHEWS: You laugh at that?

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: No, presidential campaigns are won in the middle.
Independent voters will decide the outcome of this one, just as they have
the last --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why is your whole party scare of that -- why are you dying,
crying for Christie? Why is the party going crazy about this guy? He`s
only been in office two years as a governor of a middle-sized state. What
is going on? Why are you so desperate?

HARRIS: Well, he`s been a very successful governor of a blue state,
because of his demeanor, because of the way that he approaches --

MATTHEWS: Is that what you call that, demeanor, yelling out your
window at the cab driver that just cut you off?

HARRIS: Yes, it`s awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: It`s great. Look, he excites --

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: The unemployment rate in New Jersey is higher than it is in
the country. The crime rate is going up three times faster than the rest
of the country.

MATTHEWS: OK. You see this?

MCMAHON: No, seriously.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They`re ready for Christie.

MCMAHON: He`s been the governor of a blue stat, but his numbers are
upside down. He`s not very popular.

MATTHEWS: Is Christie getting in? Is Christie getting in?

HARRIS: I`m not sure.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: -- because he can`t win reelection.

MATTHEWS: Is Palin getting in?

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: No, she`s not getting in.

HARRIS: Palin is not getting in.

MCMAHON: No way.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think he will get reelected as governor if he
doesn`t.

Anyway, thank you, Steve McMahon. You`re half right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Todd Harris, you`re a brilliant guy. We`re still waiting
for Rubio. I think Chris Christie is taking his job as second place, to be
running mate.

Thank you, Steve McMahon.

Thank you, Todd Harris.

Next up, just the facts. Rick Perry is all about the facts. Just
listen to the way he speaks and his big verbal crutch -- next in the
"Sideshow."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the "Sideshow."

To start off, stop smiling? That`s how many residents and lawmakers
in South Carolina are feeling this week after a new mandate from Governor
Nikki Haley which requires, catch this, state workers to answer their work
phone by saying, hello, it`s a great day in South Carolina.

Well, with sky-high unemployment in the state, the chairman of the
state`s Democratic Party says of the governor -- quote -- "She believes
that if you say the lie enough, people may begin to believe it. But we
know that the state is in the toilet."

Well, that`s a rough-talking guy. Well, lie is a strong word, as I
said. But take a moment to think about the issues dealt with by state
offices. Think everybody calling in is in good cheer? Well, take this one
example from a local blog of how the new script could be put to use.

"Hello. It`s a great day in South Carolina. Thank you for calling
the state office of victim assistance."

Well, how is that for whistling past the graveyard?

And now for the "Big Number." Sticking to the facts, well, not
always, as in the case of those three recent Republican debates, but one of
the candidates seems to be pretty fond of some common phrases that include
the word fact. Let`s hear it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact of the
matter you is, you look at the state of Texas and see what we have done.
The fact of the matter is, Texas has made great progress.

And the fact is people continue to move to the state of Texas. As a
matter of fact, I bet Mitt and Jon would both agree. The fact is, I erred
on the side of life. The fact of the matter is. The fact of the matter is
this. The fact of the matter is. As a matter of fact. The fact is. The
fact is. The fact is. As a matter of fact. A very clear statement of
fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, as a matter of fact, you lost three straight debates,
Governor.

Anyway, wow, a new analysis by Smart Politics took a tab of how many
times each candidate used the so-called political cliches. How many did
the Texas governor rack up? Thirty-three of them. That`s more than double
the amount for all the other candidates, combined -- 33, that`s tonight`s
big numero.

Anyway, up next, Rick Perry has got a Texas-sized problem, we all
know. Some big-time Texas Republicans say they can`t bear the thought of
him as president of the United States. They like him, but not president.
The latest from the Lone Star State coming up next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Veronica De La Cruz with
your CNBC "Market Wrap."

A sizable sell-off picking up speed toward the close, the Dow Jones
industrial average tumbling 179 points. The S&P 500 giving up 24. The
Nasdaq sliding 55. Uncertainty was the word of the day. Investors are
watching events in Europe and on Capitol Hill with no signs yet of a quick
resolution to economic crisis on either side of the pond.

Commodity prices and related stocks plunged as more signs of slowing
global economic growth stirred fears of a drop-off in demand. GM slipped
as factory workers ratified a four-year contract that carries a signing
bonus and increases profit sharing. American Express slumped aside word
that it will be working with China`s largest Internet company to provide
cross-border online payments.

But bucking the downward trend today, Amazon surged after unveiling
its new Fire tablet P.C. and announcing that Best Buy will be selling the
upgraded version of its Kindle e-reader.

And that will do it from the newsroom here. Let`s send it back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Rick Perry`s performance, if you can call it that, in the last debate
has created doubt about him in the minds of many people around the country,
but an ad from the Texas Democratic Party apologizing for George W. Bush
and warning the rest of the country to be wary of Rick Perry sums up how
Democrats in Texas feel. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our enemies
are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking
about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): So sorry.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You might be a little
surprised. You might be a little shocked. You might be a little appalled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I was such a fool.

BUSH: Rick, I look forward to having you by my side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you can`t beat Brenda Lee.

Anyway, according to an article in this week`s "New York Times"
magazine -- quote -- "Some Republicans in Texas are beginning to feel the
same way."

"A crisis of confidence deep in the heart of Texas" -- quote --
explains it like this -- quote -- "Typically, we close ranks when faced
with criticism from outsiders, but the possibility of a President Perry has
brought about a strange and to my mind never-before-seen turn of events,
bragging about how bad things are here in Texas."

Wow.

So, are Texans really turning their backs on the governor?

Mimi Swartz is the author of the "New York Times" magazine piece I
talked about. Also, she is the executive editor of the great "Texas
Monthly." And Wayne Slater is the senior political writer for "The Dallas
Morning News"."

So you let the cat out of the bag, Mimi, and I thank you for it.
Oftentimes we think that all Texans like all Texans. Not true, or at least
not for president?

MIMI SWARTZ, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "TEXAS MONTHLY": Not for president.

I think this is something I don`t remember seeing before, but I think
there is -- there`s a lot of questioning about whether this is a really
good idea for Texans and for the rest of the world.

MATTHEWS: You know, I go back to Wayne on that, because, Wayne, I --
for months -- I follow politics assiduously, if you will. I`m a junkie.

And I never heard anybody talk up Rick Perry for president until about
a couple of weeks again. And then all of a sudden he was flavor of the
week or the month. And then I wondered, how come I have never heard
anybody talk him up before? A question that`s sort of in your ear and you
forget about it for a while, but it`s coming back again.

The reason nobody ever talked him up for president before is what we
have seen these last three debates, right?

WAYNE SLATER, COLUMNIST, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Well, because
these people know him.

Mimi has it exactly right. A couple of weeks ago, I was in -- at a
private club here in Austin with some Bush folks, a lot of Republicans,
moderate Democrats, some going all the way back to the Johnson years, and
one of the things that I noticed was, 10 years ago, when I was at that club
and talking to many of the same people, they could see George Bush
potentially as a president.

What I kept hearing two weeks ago from these people privately was,
Rick Perry, really? I don`t think this is the guy --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does that tell you that when you`re sitting around with him
over a coffee or a beer, when you`re casual, he never says anything
weighty? Is that it? Never seems to understand anything with incision,
any compelling thought behind it? Is that what you`re saying? It`s not
just inarticulate on TV. It`s when you get to meet him, you don`t get
impressed by him.

(CROSSTALK)

SLATER: Well, I`m not going to say that I`m not impressed by him.

But let me just say one thing before Mimi. And that is that all the
years that I have talked to Perry and been around Perry, the thing that
strikes me is that -- not that he never says anything weighty -- he doesn`t
-- but that he isn`t interested in anything.

(LAUGHTER)

SLATER: He doesn`t seem to be not just curious, incurious, like
George Bush, but the thing that he`s most interested in is having the
office. None of these issues, none of these themes, public education,
higher education, all the rest of it, I ever felt was something that he
felt deeply about.

MATTHEWS: Well, Mimi, let`s go through this.

SWARTZ: No, I think --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead, your reaction to that thought right there; he
didn`t have any depth of interest.

SWARTZ: Well, he does have a depth of interest, and it`s been
extending his power in Texas.

He`s transformed the governorship, because it used to be a symbolic
job. And he has shown that, through appointments, it can become an
extremely powerful job.

But the question I`m asking and the question I think Wayne is asking
and everybody else is, to what end? Who has benefited from that? And I
would submit it`s not the people of Texas.

MATTHEWS: God, you make him sound like Idi Amin, all power and no
content.

SWARTZ: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, let`s go. Let`s go to -- Perry`s record as
governor has many Texans up in arms.

In "The New York Times" magazine piece, you write -- quote -- "Not
just Democrats, but also a growing number of Republicans, are quick to
mention that Perry pushed the legislature to cut $4 billion out of public
education. And they talk about how Texas now has the lowest rate of the
uninsured in the nation, the largest percentage of uninsured children, too,
and how we`re dead last in the percentage of adults with high school
diplomas."

So, it`s education and health, both.

SWARTZ: Yes, it`s education and health care, and it`s the workforce
of the future. So I think what`s happened is you have a lot of very
serious, very moderate Republicans suddenly saying what`s going to happen
to this state down the road?

MATTHEWS: Well, again, we go back to Wayne. Is there any chance
Obama could carry Texas against a Republican candidate?

SLATER: No, no, whether it`s Rick Perry, whether it`s Newt Gingrich,
whether it`s -- no, no. He will

MATTHEWS: You mean Newt Gingrich would carry Texas? Boy, that is a
blistering assault on the president.

Let me ask you about --

SLATER: It`s a very Republican state, not just -- it`s not just a
Republican state. The theme here, and one of the reasons why Rick Perry
has won again and again, and there`s lots of reasons, is because he
understands that while Mimi is right, the establishment, many people look
in a far, far away about the higher education spending and public education
spending, and they are concerned about what`s happened in our state, that
is more than offset by a general instinct in this state that government is
the enemy. The less money you give to government, the better it is. That
is a big constituency.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go to a tougher question.

SWARTZ: I think

MATTHEWS: No, I really want to get to this because Mimi wrote this
provocative piece. I want to know how hard you go on this. I don`t think
it`s a question of articulateness or failure to prepare for a debate. I
sensed watching the face of Governor Perry in these debates, I`m not saying
that`s cute, that`s a mean to say -- a sense of, gee, why am I here, no
matter why he`s there, there seems to be something in his face, how did I
get in this situation, why are these people being so mean to me, these
questions are hard?

Your thoughts in.

SWARTZ: Well, I don`t think -- he just hates to debate. You know,
historically, if you look at -- he refused to debate Bill White during the
last governor`s race. He was eaten alive by Garry Mora the last time he
had to debate him.

I think he knows this is something he`s not great at and will probably
go to great lengths to avoid.

MATTHEWS: What does it tell you about him? What`s it tell you about
a guy that can`t stand up there? Yes, please?

SWARTZ: Excuse me?

MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead.

SWARTZ: Well, in terms of Texas I think historically we`ve been a
state, we`ve been an anti-government state, but I think what has finally
happened here is that people are seeing that government can do some good
things, and now, they are not around. For instance, during the forest
fires, you know, because of cuts, there weren`t enough people to fight the
fires, and I think this is where suddenly these anti-government people are
going to experience a lack of government personally in the next few years,
and I`m hoping they will change their minds a little.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Mimi.

Wayne, we`ll have you back next time. As always, you`re a great
guest, too.

SWARTZ: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Up next, we`ve heard a lot of pushback from the White House about Ron
Suskind`s new book about the Obama administration called "Confidence Men,"
it`s about how the economic policy got put together. Suskind is coming
here to respond. It`s going to be interesting.

Coming up on HARDBALL, Ron Suskind, the "Confidence Men," only on
MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Just a couple weeks ago when the Republican candidate won
that special election in New York to replace Anthony Weiner, there was a
lot of talk about President Obama losing support among the Jewish
community. Well, that`s all changing now. First, President Obama picked
up an enthusiastic endorsement from former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who
promise support of Israel, of course, who had been very critical of the
president`s policies in the past. And he obviously picked him up with the
U.N. speech.

In a new poll by "The Jerusalem Post" over there, that`s an English
language paper, finds a dramatic shift of opinion. A majority, 54 percent,
now say he`s more pro-Israeli, versus only one in five over there in the
state of Israel saying he favors the Palestinians. Let`s see if those
numbers help the president with Jewish voters here at him. Democrats tend
to do well in that community.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Ron Suskind`s new book called "Confidence Men" paints a president
overwhelmed by crisis and an economic that at times undermine his decision.
Suskind writes, "During so many days of crisis in his first two years,
President Obama often felt that performance pressure -- having to play the
part of president, in charge and confident each day in front of his
seasoned, combative prideful team, many whom had all together recently
served another president."

Not surprisingly, the White House has pushed back hard on the book.
Anyway, we`re going to get to that.

Ron Suskind, thank you.

Let me get to this point here. All I care about, I`m not a media
critic. You can have your fights with other people. I want to know about
your book what, you`ve learned.

I have thought from the beginning that the president put a lot of
faith into Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard. He`s a liberal.
He`s a Keynesian.

When I talk to him, he says the government, when the consumer is not
spending and business isn`t investing, the government`s got to pick up the
load to do it. He did that big stimulus bill.

Why are we still facing that 9 percent unemployment? That`s what most
people ask it.

RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR: He did a big stimulus bill. By the summer of
2009, he realized it hadn`t worked. It wasn`t enough and then they got
into a swirl, lots of re-litigation. Larry says division aggregate demand,
there`s not enough demand out there

MATTHEWS: So, we need a bigger stimulus.

SUSKIND: Right. But then they got into the budget battle. So, it
was between the deficit hawks and people wanting stimulus. The president
couldn`t decide all the way into 2010.

MATTHEWS: So, right now, when we look at our president being very
populist now, looking to the left a bit in his rhetoric, does he have a
sense in his head that if he had no opposition out there, would he be
spending more, running up the deficit, or would he be spending less? You
don`t know the answer, do you?

SUSKIND: My sense right now that he`s looking for alternatives. I
mean, the whole book is about his evolution, and I think he`s going back to
the closet, to things that he wanted to do but his team wouldn`t let him to
do, to say what have I got in the tool kit I can use now, including some
more innovation because he`s not been very innovative.

MATTHEWS: What about -- OK. So, he did the big stimulus bill. Now,
he`s doing the American Jobs Bill, putting people to work building roads
and bridges. We`ve been pushing that like bandits. We really think that`s
a big thing around here. He`s also going after the rich rhetorically.
How`s that up?

SUSKIND: Well, at the end of the book --

MATTHEWS: Get the rich to pay for the bridges.

SUSKIND: Exactly. At the end of the book, we have an interview and
the president basically said, look, I`ve learned hard lessons. I`m not
technocrat in chief. I`m not I suffer from the policy wonks disease, like
Carter and Clinton. I`m past that now.

You`ll see a more dynamic president going forward. I think, right
now, he`s trying to fill that larger role. Let`s see how he does.

He only has a few months before the campaign eats him next year. This
is his best last chance.

MATTHEWS: When he`s in the room, when he`s in trouble, who is the
lifeline? Who does he call in the room to say, I don`t know what`s going
on? The market went down 200 points more tonight? I`m talking about right
now, it just did.

What do I do? Who is he calling on the phone that night?

(CROSSTALK)

SUSKIND: I`m not clear which economist he`s turning to now more
stridently. I that know when he`s in a pickle, he tends to turn to Pete
Rouse, he`s always been the shadow chief of staff, from the Senate office
on (INAUDIBLE)

But right now, I think the president is improvising, he`s saying, "I
can handle this, I understand economics," he`s learned a lot over these
last three years, "and let`s see what I can do at this moment." This is
his moment.

MATTHEWS: OK. So, you`re saying basically he`s not made up his mind.
He tried stimulus. He`s trying to do the jobs bill. He`s trying to do
bridges now. He`s trying to get the rich to pay their fair share.

SUSKIND: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: OK. Big question I don`t get around here, I never get the
answer. Cramer helps me sometimes, Jim Cramer, a friend of mine.

Why does Wall Street hate this guy? The market has gone up 3,000
points since he came in. It was killed by Bush, who they seem to like.

SUSKIND: Right.

MATTHEWS: W killed them, this guy has brought them back like Lazarus
and they hate him. Why?

SUSKIND: I asked senior Wall Street guy that very question. I said,
what is it -- you know, he couldn`t have done more for you, opened the
public purse to save your skin. He said, oh, you`re absolutely right.

MATTHEWS: He saved the auto industry. He saved the banking industry.
He`s saving Wall Street. And they hate him.

SUSKIND: Wall Street`s position, you`re absolutely --

MATTHEWS: Is this like the French after World War II? They don`t
forgive you for saving?

SUSKIND: It`s interesting. You`re absolutely right, but when we say
he`s anti-business, he just does more for us. That`s the response. It`s a
rhetorical position.

They know deep down he couldn`t have done more to save Wall Street.
Ultimately, his chance, historically, his big opportunity, his Rooseveltian
opportunity -- in the spring of 2009, he could have restructured the
financial systems so we wouldn`t be in the gyrations we`ve been in the last
week or two, where we`re up and down and no one is confident in the capital
markets.

MATTHEWS: So --

SUSKIND: He didn`t do it. He missed the chance.

MATTHEWS: So Dodd-Frank didn`t work?

SUSKIND: No, certainly, it`s wide, but shallow. It doesn`t really
restructure the way Wall Street`s business model works, which is invest
around the world, saddle America with debt and not have accountability as
Wall Street for profits, even when things go bad, the government is there
for that. That business model stays intact, which is why there`s fear
across the markets here and abroad.

MATTHEWS: What does he have to do to keep this economy where it is
now or get it better next election day?

SUSKIND: Right now --

MATTHEWS: He`s got a 9.1 percent unemployment. It holds at 9 percent
for months now. People don`t like long wars in this country. They don`t
like long recessions.

Are we stuck in a reset?

SUSKIND: I think he`s got to break essentially from his left/right
conversation. He needs new ideas and dynamism in his mix. He says he
wants that.

The question is, what new ideas is going to offer now that are -- is
off the traditional left-right grid that people say, I`m not sure what to
think about that. That`s dynamic policy-making. Now is his moment for
that.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`d be a better second-term president than the first
term if he gets one?

SUSKIND: Absolutely. There`s no doubt. This book is about how we
got here, how we get into this mess and the evolution of the central actor
of this period into a fuller actor now. He says that in his interview, I
don`t -- I don`t dispute that.

The question is: can he do what he needs to do now in time?

MATTHEWS: What`s the White House -- why did the White House jump on
you so hard?

SUSKIND: Look, this is what means with a book like this. This is the
first real book to pull back the curtain and show it as it is. That means
they have to deal with it. It`s way off of message, if you will.

Originally, when I went through the final period of reporting, they
were feeling pretty good. The president had his post-midterm victories
where he did a swap on the Bush tax cuts and payroll. He had the Gabby
Giffords speech. Bin Laden was in the crosshairs when he`s doing the
interview with me.

They felt the period, this tough middle period where much of the news
is was past the president evolved --

MATTHEWS: So did we all.

SUSKIND: But now, some people are saying, no, no, this long tough
period hasn`t ended after the debt ceiling debacle.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Now, quickly in the ending here, in the early
part of this year, we thought we`re getting near the end of the bad times.
We thought we were to the end of the recession.

SUSKIND: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Now, we`re talking second dip.

SUSKIND: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Is there going to be one? Is there going to be one?

SUSKIND: You know, look --

MATTHEWS: Just say I don`t know.

SUSKIND: I absolutely don`t know.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Ron Suskind. I love humility.

The name of the book, "Confidence Men" -- getting a lot of heat out
there.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with a big question for us. How
should President Obama run for reelection? How is he going to do it? How
is he going to win? Should he go to his base on the left, if you will, the
progressive left? Or should he play down the middle, go for the
independents?

Big question. He`s got to answer it.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with the big question of how
President Obama should run for reelection. Should he run like Franklin
Roosevelt did in his second term in 1936, basically dividing the country
between pro-New Deal and anti-New Deal? Tell the voters you`ve got a
choice here, stick with the direction I`m taking the country in, getting
out of the depression or go back to the Republicans and big business and
the rich people who hate me.

Choose. You`re either with me or against me. You`re either for
government public activist solutions to our problems or are you for going
back to letting the corporations and the banks go about their business and
hope things will get better naturally?

Or -- this is the big question confronting the people in the White
House right now -- win reelection the way Bill Clinton did, do something
like he did the last years of the 20th century when he made his big
concession of saying the era of big government is over, when he signed on
to the Republican-passed welfare reform bill, when he begun working with
Newt Gingrich in balancing the budget.

As Humphrey Bogart said in the movie "African Queen": you buys your
ticket and you takes your chances. And there`s no way to be both Franklin
Delano Roosevelt of the second New Deal in `36 and Bill Clinton in 1996.
But won, but each won a totally different way. One went left, one went
down the middle.

Which way should Obama go? Which way will offer the most compelling
case for reelection next November? What will attract the majority of
voters to decide that an Obama second term, four more years of a Democrat
controlling the White House and setting national direction is a better bet
than giving the Republican candidate a chance?

Well, you could say he should decide based on which Republican runs
against him. Maybe it would be smart to go left on Romney, to offer a
sharper, surer sense of direction against a challenger who appears to most
people to lack a policy compass. Maybe it would be smart to go down the
middle if you`re facing a Rick Perry who will scare the middle of your way
to begin with.

But the problem for Obama is that like a batter in the Major Leagues,
by the time you know what pitch is coming your way, it`s too late to adjust
your swing. So, it would be best for Obama to make up his mind, hard left
or down the middle.

This coming Monday night, we`re going over the entire show of HARDBALL
to debating this issue, with strong passions expected on both sides. We`re
calling it the "Great Democratic Debate." It`s going to be a hot night
here, as it should be, because this matters.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

END

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