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updated 10/13/2011 11:26:48 AM ET 2011-10-13T15:26:48

Guests: David Corn, Veronica De La Cruz, Evan Kohlmann, Barney Frank, Jennifer Donahue, Nicolle Wallace, Matt Cooper, Joan Walsh, Matt Cooper, Joan Walsh, Robin Wright

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Send out the clowns.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Leading off tonight: Clown show. That`s what the Republican field is
amounting to. Michele Bachmann starts talking about the "sign of the
beast" during a presidential debate. Rick Perry says the American
revolution happened in the 16th century, and Newt Gingrich says Chris Dodd
and Barney Frank should be imprisoned for writing legislation he disagrees
with.

No wonder Mitt Romney never, quote, "loses a debate." How could he in
this crowd? Barney Frank`s here to deal with Newt`s bomb-throwing at the
top of the show.

Also, Mitt Romney turns out to be the movie you see when the movie you
wanted to see is sold out. As Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway sang,
"Where Is the Love?" Polls show Romney treading water while Republicans
keep picking a new flavor of the month.

Plus, Joe Biden said today it won`t happen. Hillary Clinton said
today it won`t happen. And I have no evidence that it will. So why do
some people keep stirring the pot, saying a desperate President Obama will
dump Biden and put Hillary on the ticket?
And what are we to make of that alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi
Arabian ambassador here in Washington? Was it a rogue operation or was it
planned at the top in Iran?

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the sorry display we saw last night. As
Miss Peggy Lee would say, Is that all there is?

We start with the clown show that the Republican field has become, as
we saw last night in that debate. U.S. Congressman Barney Frank`s a
Democrat of Massachusetts, David Corn, of course, is an MSNBC political
analyst and Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" magazine.

Congressman Frank, I have a lot of respect for you, as you know. I
want you to listen to what -- if you didn`t catch it last night, here was
inimitable Newt Gingrich last night talking about you and former senator
Chris Dodd, saying you should both be in prison. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If
they want to really change things, the first person to fire is Bernanke,
who is a disaster as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The second person to
fire is Geithner. If you want to put people in jail, I want to second what
Michele said, you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, and
let`s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians
who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country
in trouble.

CHARLIE ROSE, MODERATOR: Clearly, you`re not saying they should go to
jail?

GINGRICH: Well in Chris Dodd`s case, go back and look at the
Countryside (SIC) deals. And in Barney Frank`s case, go back and look at
the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was a portrait of malevolence. Congressman
Frank, what do you make of this? Is this libel, or what is it? I don`t
know what to make of it.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, first of all, you have to
understand, when you think you are the intellectual leader of the free
world and you find yourself struggling to pass Michele Bachmann in a poll
in Iowa--

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: -- it is unsettling. I understand that the poor man isn`t
getting his due.

But what was particularly extraordinary was he was talking about a
period when he was in charge, not me. You know, the run-up to this crisis
-- the crisis began to bubble over in 2007 and 2008. The Republicans
controlled the Congress from 1995 through 2006. Newt was himself speaker
for four years, did nothing about the problems he accuses me and Chris of
causing and then it was Tom DeLay.

So apparently -- and I`m regretful, Chris. Apparently, I had some
secret influence over the Republican leadership that I never knew about
because if I had, I would have told them not to impeach President Clinton.
I would have told them not to go to war in Iraq. I would have told DeLay
not to go on the dance show. I mean, there are a lot of things I would
have done.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: The second thing I would say is, what he then is objecting to
is the bill we passed. Yes, they don`t like an independent consumer agency
and the work that Elizabeth Warren did. They don`t want derivatives to be
regulated. Incredibly, they want to go back to the situation where AIG was
able to get itself into all this trouble. They don`t want a fiduciary
responsibility on people who advise investors.

So as I said, first of all, he`s talking about the period when his
party was in control. In 2007, when we took over, we began to make illegal
these subprime loans, et cetera.

And as I said, poor Newt is just beside himself. He thought he was a
great gift to the country, and he finds himself being taken back to the
return window, not at Tiffany, I guess--

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: -- but a different place, and he can`t deal with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me suggest that behind the malevolent comment of
Newt Gingrich last night about you and former senator Dodd was a grim
effort to try to raise a few bucks in this campaign.

As you must know, Congressman Frank, as everybody in business knows
it, you and Chris Dodd did something to regulate those people, and the one
problem (INAUDIBLE) like it the least. Is this the way to pass the tin cup
around and get some money for what is already a cash-strapped campaign, not
only a ludicrous one but a poor one?

FRANK: Oh, I suppose so. Look, there are a lot of people who made a
great deal of money, and if you read the "Journals" and other papers, you
listen, yes, there are people who are complaining that because of what we
did, they can`t do as much.

By the way, what we did, I think, was to restrict some of the activity
that added nothing to the real economy, trading paper back and forth. I
mean, these people had -- they were engaged in economic transactions that
had as much relationship to the real economy as fantasy football has to
Sunday afternoon, except they were making money off it. And yes, there are
some people who are very angry at us because they`re not making the trading
profits they used to make. And yes, I`m sure that Newt does make some
money off that.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of the Republican Party? You grew
up in Massachusetts, and New Jersey way before that. And you know there
used to be a Clifford Case Republican Party, a party of Governor Sargent
and reasonable people. And what happened to that?

Last night -- well, I want you just start (INAUDIBLE) I want you to
take a look at -- here`s Rick Perry, who actually is a governor of one of
the states, maybe a secessionist governor but a governor, and here he is
talking about the revolutionary war. Of course, Massachusetts had much to
do with it. Here he is talking about when it was fought, not about when
the earth was founded 5,000 years ago, according to these people, but when
we fought our revolution (INAUDIBLE) that part. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our Founding Fathers
never meant for Washington, D.C., to be the fountain of all wisdom. As a
matter of fact, they were very much afraid of that. It was actually the
reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to -- to get
away from that type of onerous crown, if you will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How do you describe this knucklehead history? I mean, this
guy`s the guy that said Texas has the right to secede from the union. I
think we fought a war over that. Now he has placed -- well, they always
have problems with the history of the universe. You know, they -- you know
their problems with that. But here he is saying our country was founded
back in the 1500s.

FRANK: Well, I`ll be honest with you. I think Rick Perry is jealous
of me, and here`s why.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: He wrote a book, or he signed a book that someone wrote, and
he said, oh, he could never live in Massachusetts because they vote for Ted
Kennedy, a great senator who was alive (INAUDIBLE), John Kerry and me, even
after they know what we stand for. And he was appalled that people would
vote for us even after they know what we stand for.

The reason I think he`s jealous is, as people in the Republican Party
have found out what he stands for, they`re not voting for him.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: So he`s very jealous that someone can tell people what he
thinks and not have to repudiate it or go back on it.

The floundering around, yes, it`s discouraging. But to go back to
your main point. I was very bipartisan when I was in the legislature.
There were some differences, but we could work together on things. You
have a group of people now -- the Republican Party today is in the grips of
the most rigid ideological splinter we`ve seen. And the problem is that
they don`t represent the whole country, they represent the people who vote
in Republican primaries. And that has driven all of them far to the right.

So Mitt Romney, for example, is in a mode of repudiating position
after position. I noticed in the debate last night, they quoted his having
supported the Bush administration`s efforts to deal with the financial
crisis in 2008. He`s now repudiating that. He`s, of course, repudiated
the health care.

I mean, there has never been a time in American history when so
rigidly ideologically extremist a group has controlled one of the major
parties.

MATTHEWS: And he was the sober one last night. Let`s look at Rick
Santorum last night -- I want David to get in here -- Rick Santorum last
night advocating basically getting rid of all corporate taxes for
manufacturers. Just get rid of them all. Don`t pay for it, just get rid
of them. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What
happened was we became uncompetitive, so we need to be competitive. That`s
why I propose taking the corporate tax for manufacturers and processors,
taking it from 35 percent and eliminate, zero percent tax. Allow this to
be the manufacturing capital of the world again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: This is just in line with what Bachmann said the other
night in the last debate, saying we shouldn`t have to pay any taxes.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first I think I should say
that I`m here to make a citizen`s arrest of Barney Frank, if I have the
chance. I mean, they`re bidding down. Pretty soon, it`s going to be
negative numbers on taxation. I mean, you know, Herman Cain`s plan would
raise taxes on the poor. Michele Bachmann says we shouldn`t pay taxes. He
doesn`t want taxes on any manufacturing. But his headline was, I want to
go to war with China.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: He meant an economic war, but it`s like the war language, the
rhetoric has to be as excessive as it can for any of these guys to have a
chance of winning over those Republican primary voters that Barney was
talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

FRANK: Can I add, by the way, you`re talking about not raising taxes.
They`ve backed away from cutting -- savaging Social Security and Medicare.
But these are all, including -- except for Ron Paul, they all want to
greatly increase military spending. Here we are spending at the highest
rate -- we`re spending at cold war rates of military spending, going all
over the world. And Romney`s attacking President Obama for not spending
enough on the military.

So the nonsense is that you cut taxes, you claim that you`re going to
protect Social Security and Medicare, and you increase military spending.
They`re not just going to -- they`re going to really make the military the
volunteers, volunteers in the sense that we won`t be able to pay anybody.
We`ll have to have volunteer people to give us bullets, volunteer people to
fly planes.

I mean, the illogic is overwhelming. How do you substantially
increase the largest single item in the discretionary budget, military
spending, and then cut taxes and say, Oh, but Social Security and Medicare
will be fine?

MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Congressman and David, they were supposed
to stick to economics, but of course, Michele Bachmann couldn`t avoid
religious concerns. Here she is passing what even my producers think was a
joke -- I don`t think so -- talking about the "sign of the beast," which I
learned from some of these characters is apparently 999, Herman Cain`s
economic program, turned upside down, 666.

Let`s listen to her brand of humor. This is Michele Bachmann --
desperate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you take
the 999 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil`s in the
details.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CORN: Oh!

MATTHEWS: What would you say if you were debating a person like that,
who -- who shifted the topic to the strange far right Christian notions
about the devil and the sign of the beast? She can`t resist that catnip.

FRANK: I guess if I were debating her -- not just debating her, but I
was losing to her in the polls, I would do exactly what Newt Gingrich did.
I`d just start to say outlandish things and change the subject.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: David, I can`t keep up with -- by the way, Barney`s as
smart as Newt thinks he is--

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s the problem we have here. Your thoughts?

CORN: I think there is a slight chance, maybe more than slight, that
Michele Bachmann really believes this.

MATTHEWS: The sign of the beast.

CORN: Yes, the sign of the beast.

MATTHEWS: That Herman Cain is the anti-Christ.

CORN: That (INAUDIBLE) I mean, she has said so many outlandish things
over the years, and she has a very fundamental view of the world. She has
a very conspiratorial view of the world. Next time you get her on the
show, ask her about "Agenda 21." She believes in black helicopters and
everything--

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

CORN: -- leading up to the Rapture. So it`s not inconceivable that
this wasn`t a joke.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to square one. Congressman Frank, again,
besides being a liberal and a progressive supporter of your interests in
your district up there in Massachusetts, you do study politics and history.
What has happened to the Republican Party? Why does it look like a Tea
Party-fueled party looks like it`s given up on finding a candidate that it
likes and looks like it`s willing to go with one it doesn`t like?

FRANK: Well, it`s a combination. I think the fact is that the
economy went very sour during a Republican regime. And I want to stress
this again. They -- the Republicans have had this great success in saying,
Oh, the Democrats caused the problems. For six years, from 2000 through
2006, which is clearly the time when the economic problems festered and got
worse and were ready to blow up, we had Republican control of the
presidency, the House and the Senate.

That`s unusual. The last time we had a six-year period of one party
controlling all three branches was Lyndon Johnson. So they had control,
and it went terribly wrong. And here was this problem. They could not
deal with that and they could not deal with the problems that there was too
little regulation, too little government intervention, too little of a
public sector along with the private sector.

So they were literally kind of driven mad by it, and the anger just
exploded on themselves. So I guess they had to say -- look, they couldn`t
possibly go to the left. If George Bush`s administration was a failure in
this leading up to the economic crisis, and of course, in the Iraq war, the
greatest mistake in American history, I believe, that was a single
conscious decision, then the only answer is to go further to the right.

I mean, they couldn`t stick with Bush. They are constitutionally
unable to move even to a more centrist position, so they had then -- the
only place they could go is to the right. That`s why you have people like
Gingrich and like Romney and a lot of others far to the right of where they
ever were before because, again, the model they had of a Bush
administration became indefensible, and they had to find a new model. And
given their ideology, given their positioning, the only one they could find
was to the right.

MATTHEWS: You`re invited back on this program any time you`d like,
especially when you`re accused of a felony by Newt Gingrich.

(LAUGHTER)

FRANK: Well, be fair -- he didn`t say -- it might have been a serious
misdemeanor.

MATTHEWS: OK, serious misdemeanor. Any time, any place. Thank you
very much, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who I do believe has
the IQ that Newt in his delusions thinks he might have had at one point in
his earlier life. Thank you very much, of course, David Corn.

Coming up: If Mitt Romney`s the Republican front-runner, the voters
didn`t get the memo. They don`t certainly have a heart for this guy.
Polls show Romney`s numbers have been stagnant, while Bachmann and Perry
and now Cain have all shot to the top. Why the Tea Party just doesn`t love
this Romney character. Maybe because he`s not one of them.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`ve got new poll numbers on two of the hottest Senate
races out there. Let`s check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard." First to
Massachusetts, where Republican senator Scott Brown faces a well-funded
challenge from consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. Right now, Brown leads
but not by much. He`s up by 47 to 42. That`s within the reach of
Elizabeth Warren. Root for her up there.

Next to Virginia, for the Senate, for the seat of the retiring Jim
Webb. It`s a former governor, Tim Kaine, up against former senator George
Allen. Looks like Kaine`s got a 1-point lead, 45 to 44. What a great race
that is, Tim Kaine a great candidate.

These are two premier matchups that we`re going to be watching all the
way to election day. We`ll be rooting for one of those candidates in each
case.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For a supposed front-runner, Mitt Romney`s still having trouble
gaining traction with actual Republican voters. In poll after poll, his
support has stayed virtually unchanged as other candidates have battled to
fill the anti-Romney, if you will, position. Last month, it was Rick Perry
in that position. Now it appears to be Herman Cain challenging him. This
is despite the fact that he`s been strong in debates, Romney has, and has
racked up a number of impressive endorsements.

But what`s wrong with Mitt Romney? Will his numbers begin to move
now? And here`s what we can tell from what the results of the newest NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll tells us, and that`s just out today.

Compare how Republican voters view Mitt Romney to Herman Cain. Well,
16 percent of voters are very positive towards Governor Romney -- that`s
Republicans, 16 percent, 1 in 6, are very positive, while 28 percent are
very positive toward Cain.

Romney also has stronger negative numbers, though it`s also true that
more people certainly know who he is, having run for so many more years,
and Cain`s a newcomer.

For more on all this, we`re joined by Nicolle Wallace -- there she is
-- a former senior McCain-Palin adviser and the author of a book, "It`s
Classified" -- there it is -- and Jennifer Donahue`s a fellow at the
Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College.

I`ve been talking to you, Jennifer, so I want to start with you, about
this recently, and I get this sense that there`s two fights going on in the
Republican Party. Romney`s won one of those fights, the sort of the more
establishment Republican wing, the more Eastern wing historically, and
that`s always been one of the wings of the Republican Party. It used to be
-- and it probably still is -- the dominant wing. The Western and Southern
wing, which is basically Tea Partiers, conservatives, very anti-government
people, they don`t have a candidate yet, and it is not Romney.

Your thoughts? That`s my thought. What`s yours?

JENNIFER DONAHUE, THE HUFFINGTON POST: I agree with your thoughts.

I think one of the reasons that people aren`t really talking about
that much in a non-sensational way is the fact that Romney is a Mormon. I
think, in Iowa, for example, where 44 percent of GOP primary voters are
evangelical, 42 percent say they know people -- that people they know would
not vote for Romney. That`s like saying, I won`t vote for Romney.

MATTHEWS: I know it does.

DONAHUE: You know, that is a huge obstacle for Romney. That means
that the evangelical vote, as it moves from Iowa, maybe not so much in New
Hampshire, but then as it hits in South Carolina and the Southern states,
if he`s got almost half of Republican primary voters questioning whether
his religion is a cult, he`s got a huge problem on his hands.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me go to Nicolle on that.

Your thoughts? I didn`t want to start on that. I want to start on
what seems to be this tissue rejection of Romney by the Tea Party
conservative wing of the Republican Party. But address that question
raised by Jennifer. Will his LDS religion end up forcing the Republicans
to look to another candidate between now and next year?

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I
don`t think so.

And I think, Chris, you know that every candidate in both parties
always has to bring some burden with them on the campaign trail. For John
McCain, who is the last candidate I worked for, it was his position on
immigration. He had once supported comprehensive immigration reform with
the late Ted Kennedy.

So George W. Bush brought some positions that were suspect to the
Republican base when he ran in the primary in 2000, things he had done in
Texas with the late Lieutenant Governor Bullock. So every nominee brings a
burden of some positions and obstacles.

And I don`t think your analysis of what`s been going on, on the
Republican side is entirely unfair, but I do think we`re seeing a
transition. I think as we speak together tonight, I think that Romney may
be -- I think people may be settling in with Romney. I think they may be
getting more comfortable with the idea that this lusting after all these
other guys who have shown no interest in running for president has been
detrimental, has been a waste of time, and has been a disservice to the
guys who are on the field.

Whatever you think of our eight nominees, the business of running for
president is excruciating, and I think it has been a disservice to the
eight candidates who are on the field for our party to have been -- I have
called it dysfunctional dating, but it`s that age-old phenomenon of wanting
what you can`t have. So I`m happy for the party that that period seems to
be over.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Well, then the question still applies. And I want to go back to
Jennifer on this. Apart from his LDS -- let`s talk about his LDS religion
for one more -- one more back and forth here. If it is -- well, certainly,
it`s more than a position he holds. It`s who he is religiously, and the
question is if they are happy, two-thirds or three-quarters of
evangelicals, with the notion that he`s a cultist, will they ever put a
cultist in the White House?

Will they have a hand in it, even come November, when the choice is
Obama? Now my question to you, Jennifer, it`s a tough one. If they have
to choose between a cultist and Obama, who are they going to put in the
White House?

(LAUGHTER)

DONAHUE: I think that if people believe he`s a cultist, they are
going to have a lot of trouble turning out for him.

What we saw in `96 with Dole, what we saw in 2008 with McCain is
centrist candidates who couldn`t produce a turnout, who couldn`t win, and
they weren`t Mormons. They weren`t a first. So you have to ask yourself,
in the middle of a huge recession, in the middle of a time where people are
very critical of government, are they going to take the step of electing
another first right now, in 2012?

And is the turnout going to be there for a centrist, and a centrist
who is Mormon? And I don`t think we should be afraid to talk about the
subject. If Romney or another candidate were Jewish, we would certainly be
talking about whether this country were ready for the first Jewish
president. I don`t think this is off-limits.

But I do think it goes much beyond Romney`s religion. He`s flip-
flopped on issues that evangelicals care about. He`s flip-flopped on the
life issue. That really resonates. There`s still a lot of single-issue
voters out there.

He`s flip-flopped on the issue of gay marriage, and I don`t think that
people have gotten past the flip-flopping. I don`t think Nicolle is right
that people have accepted Romney and settled in. Three months out from the
elections that begin, I think people will go back to Perry. They may go
back to Bachmann. They may go back to Ron Paul.

MATTHEWS: OK.

DONAHUE: They are going to look for a nominee that represents their
ideology.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Nicolle, about this race. There`s two ways
it could end right now. It could end slowly over months and months and
months of back and forth with Perry coming back, or Romney can decide to
shoot the moon, in cards` terms, and go to Iowa and say, I can beat Herman
Cain, who is now the front-runner, I can beat that guy in Iowa.

What would you recommend, he go for the kill, knock off Herman Cain
and win the whole thing early on? What would you recommend?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You sound like you`re optimistic about Romney winning this
thing, so I`m asking you the big question. Can he win it early?

WALLACE: Look, I am optimistic. And I guess I just think more of the
country than both of you. I don`t think that the country only looks at
someone`s religion. I think they can--

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not taking a position on this. Don`t put me in
that box.

WALLACE: Yes. So I don`t think that`s the impediment that you --
that we seem to be making it. But--

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re talking about the polling numbers. The polling
numbers keep coming up to say that he`s a cultist, that these people in the
conservative Christian world don`t see him as Christian. Isn`t that a
problem, or isn`t it?

If they don`t think he`s a Christian, do you think they will vote for
him, Nicolle?

WALLACE: I think that Republicans--

MATTHEWS: If they don`t think he`s a Christian, will they vote for
him?

WALLACE: I think -- I think that Republicans, Tea Party members and
independents are united in wanting to see President Obama and his economic
policies, which have been so detrimental for the middle class and for the
vast majority of this country, voted out of office.

So I think that there will be bigger themes and bigger ideas that
unite the country around a candidate like Mitt Romney. But if you look at
2003, this point in the Democratic Party, we were looking at Howard Dean as
a likely Democratic nominee.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALLACE: And we were talking about Wesley Clark. So all three of us
may be talking about the entirely wrong cast of characters. So I`m not
ready to count anybody out.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you one last question. I need to fill -- I need
to check in with you. I haven`t talked to you in a while, Nicolle. Do you
think Herman Cain would be a great president, yes or no?

WALLACE: I--

MATTHEWS: Yes or no.

WALLACE: I think he would be a great nominee for our party.

MATTHEWS: A great nominee.

WALLACE: And I think it would be a great contest.

But I -- how do you ever know? No one can predict what kind of -- the
job is so extraordinary.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALLACE: And it`s why I write novels about the presidency. It`s so
extraordinary. You can`t ever predict what kind of president anyone will
be until they are in that office. You know that.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a wise assessment, actually.

Thank you, Nicolle Wallace. I think all of better of you, sir -- I
mean madam.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Anyway, Jennifer -- Jennifer, you`re strong tonight, very strong. You
don`t like Romney tonight.

Up next, we have got the final word on Herman Cain`s 999 plan next in
the "Sideshow." I don`t get this. Anyway, I think it`s better than 666,
from what I have heard.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: giving it all you have got. Vice President Joe Biden is not
pleased with last night`s defeat of President Obama`s jobs bill in the U.S.
Senate. Far from it. In an interview on "The Today Show" this morning,
Biden was asked why the president had not launched an effort for a
bipartisan jobs bill many months ago.

Get ready for his no-holds-barred response. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hey, I not only --
he not only rolled up his sleeves. We rolled up our sleeves, our pant
legs. We were in our gym shorts working like the devil.

They have made it real clear that under no circumstances are they
prepared to pay for anything that we need to do now, so we don`t raise the
debt further in order to help people have jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, got it. This jobs bill was not too big for the
Republicans to swallow. He made that point. It was meant to be bite-
sized. And no wonder the frustrations that Republicans didn`t bite.

And next up, how is this for a winning endorsement, or not? It all
starts with Tennessee state Senator Curry Todd, a leading sponsor of a law
down there to allow people to bring handguns into barrooms. There he is.
Well, things went sour for Curry late last night when he was pulled over
and arrested for a DUI. And what was right next to Curry as he sat in the
driver`s seat? That`s right. a loaded gun, holstered right next to him.

According to the police affidavit, Curry was -- quote -- "very
unsteady on his feet, almost falling down at times. His speech was
slurred. His eyes were red, watery and bloodshot. The subject" -- that`s
him -- "was obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying
a loaded handgun."

Well, think he might want to take a backseat now, I would say, in this
legislative fight to let people like him carry guns into barrooms.

And now for the "Big Number."

It`s all about that 999. Jon Huntsman may have joked that he first
thought the term referred to the price of a pizza, but that didn`t push
Herman Cain`s economic plan far from front and center throughout the debate
last night, mostly thanks to Cain himself.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have put my 999 plan on
the table. The 999 plan that I have proposed is simple -- 999 is bold.
What 999 does, it expands the base. I have proposed 999. Put it in the
999 plan -- 999 plan -- 999 will pass -- 999. Remember, 999 plan -- 999.
My top priority is 999, jobs, jobs, jobs.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, repetition is the mother of memory. At the very
least, you can`t say he`s not trying to get traction there.

So how many times did Mr. Cain say 999 during in that two-hours`
debate? Twenty-five times. No surprise that 16 of those times came from
the former Godfather`s Pizza himself -- pizza CEO himself -- 999 times 25,
that`s tonight`s "Big Number." Lots of numbers.

Up next: Vice President Joe Biden says there`s no way President Obama
would replace him, Joe Biden, and put Hillary Clinton on the ticket as vice
president next time. Is there any push by any Democrat -- I can`t find
them -- to make Hillary the running mate? That`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Veronica De La Cruz in
the MSNBC newsroom with some breaking news. Here`s what`s happening.

Police in California say a gunman wearing body armor shot and killed
at least six people at a hair salon in the town of Seal Beach. Three
others were critically wounded. Police do have a suspect in custody. He
was arrested at a traffic stop about a half-mile away from the scene.

Again, nine people have been shot at a hair salon in Seal Beach.
We`re going to go ahead and continue to track this developing story and
bring you another update as soon as we get more information.

I`m Veronica De La Cruz. Let`s get you back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

ANN CURRY, NBC ANCHOR: Now, are you, yes or no? Are you on the
ticket?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively yes. There`s never been a question
about that. The president has made that clear, and hardly anybody is
raising it anymore. I guess it`s parlor game talk, but the parlors are
even bare down here now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, Ann Curry certainly raised it on "The Today Show." And that was
Vice President Biden earlier this morning explaining or plainly stating
that he`s not going anywhere and will be on the ticket as vice president
running with President Obama for reelection in 2012.

However, news stories that Biden will step aside and let Hillary
Clinton step in as vice president still show up here and there. For
example, today in "The Chicago Sun-Times," the columnist out there Laura
Washington phrased it like this today -- quote -- "An Obama/Clinton ticket
would be a potent and historic lure. It would pander to female voters, but
I suspect they will go with it."

So why won`t this story just go away completely?

Joan Walsh is the editor at large with Salon. And Matt Cooper with
"The National Journal."

Joan and Matt, we`re, all three, professionals. We watch these things
come and go.

MATT COOPER, "THE NATIONAL JOURNAL": Right.

MATTHEWS: It seems like if you have a column that`s nobody has read
lately and you want somebody to read it, this certainly worked for Laura
Washington today. I shouldn`t say that. I don`t know her column.

But let me just say we`re talking about it, so it worked. Is this the
way to get a column read, to bring up this proposition?

COOPER: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, SALON.COM: I have known -- I have known
Laura -- I have known Laura for a long time.

No, I don`t think that`s what she was doing, Chris. I think she finds
it interesting. People find it perennially interesting, but it`s just not
going to happen. And, you know, I`m a huge, huge admirer of Hillary
Clinton. I don`t think it`s a good idea. I don`t think it really adds
what people think it would add.

I don`t -- the group that she did well with, certainly women, Latinos,
the white working class in particular, I don`t know that Hillary as V.P.
necessarily lures them back. She`s not running her own candidacy. She
becomes part of a team. And I just don`t see President Obama doing that to
Joe Biden. I don`t see why.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Matt Cooper.

Your thoughts? Is there anything to this besides -- and I know I have
written columns to stir the pot. It`s good to stir the pot. It gets
people thinking. Sometimes, I say things on this show, Laura, if you`re
watching, to stir things up, although I`m not sure they are true yet,
because I think they are emerging or they might emerge.

Your thoughts, Matt?

COOPER: Yes.

I mean, look, it does stir the pot. She`s endlessly interesting, and,
look, if there was ever anything, God forbid, that happened to Biden`s
health or something, she`d be the obvious next in line to come in for that
veep spot.

But if you look at the presidents who have had to dump their veeps,
you know, whether it`s Jerry Ford and Nelson Rockefeller to move to the
right, or FDR and Henry Wallace, they did it for big political reasons that
wouldn`t be the same if you exchange Biden for Hillary.

Hillary was, as Joan said, popular with white working class voters.
She picked up two-thirds of white voters in the primary against Biden -- in
primary against Obama, excuse me, in 2008. Biden plays well with those
voters. Maybe not as well, but well.


So, you wouldn`t really get that much with a Hillary on the ticket.

MATTHEWS: Well, the "Associated Press" reports that Hillary Clinton
said this about her future plans, quote, "I am looking forward to being out
of public life, whether it`s high-level appointments like this or elected
office. I have no interest in or no plans of any sort to pursue that any
more than I am really looking forward to returning to private life."

You don`t have to give a Shermanesque speech for the vice presidency
because you can`t run for it, Joan, but I do wonder.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Here`s my question, something you sort of got to. I always
felt bad about Jerry Ford dumping Nelson Rockefeller because Nelson
Rockefeller, whatever party you`re in, is certainly a public servant and a
good one all those years as governor of New York and accepting the vice
presidency, and to have him dumped in `76 just to sort of lighten the
burden of Jerry Ford certainly didn`t help Jerry Ford much.

WALSH: No. And, you know, I think --

MATTHEWS: He got beaten.

WALSH: Exactly, and I don`t think -- I don`t think it helps Barack
Obama. I think that Joe Biden has been a good vice president. I think
he`s helped him out. And, you know, as Matt says, he brings some
credibility with some of the same groups that Hillary does.

Now, look, I`m a woman. I`m a feminist. I can`t deny that certainly
in 2008, she brought -- she just brought a movement feeling, especially at
end of the campaign, to her candidacy, and there would be some of that. No
doubt there would be a little bit of that. But would that balance out the
feeling of desperation and being disloyal to Joe Biden that such a move
would raise, I just don`t -- I don`t think it balances it out.

I think it`s kind of a dangerous -- it`s one of those things. You
know, the Beltway giveth and the Beltway taketh away. We would love this
story because it`s a good, juicy story, and then the next day it would be -
- oh, my God, Barack Obama, he`s desperate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WALSH: Joe Biden, kicked to the curb, you know? The optics on this,
as we like to say, are not very good.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look. This was Laura Washington
entirely. She`s probably a great columnist. But here she is, Bob
Woodward, one of the great investigative reporters of all time actually,
perhaps the big one, here he is in an interview on October a year ago which
sort of started this buzz at one point.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: It`s on the table, and some of
Hillary Clinton`s advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012. President
Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with
during the 2008 primaries, and so they switch jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Matt Cooper, it`s hard to read exactly what Bob meant
there when he says the Clinton people are talking this up. The Clinton
people see it on the table.

COOPER: Right.

MATTHEWS: The Clinton people see it as a real possibility.

They don`t make this call. I mean, if Sid Blumenthal or (INAUDIBLE)
or one of the guys over there that would like to see this happen is talking
this up, it has no consequence, does it?

COOPER: No, it doesn`t. I mean, look, there`s Hillary people always
go through a lot of what if? What if it had been us?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

COOPER: And there are no shortage of Obama supporters who are
thinking, you know, maybe she would have been tougher and a little better
taking on John Boehner. But, you know, where she is right now is just
physically exhausted. I don`t think you can over -- underestimate how
tired you must be after eight years as first lady, going right to the U.S.
Senate, being the senator to New York right after 9/11, going right into a
presidential campaign and then logging about 1 billion miles as secretary
of state. That is a lot for a 63-year-old.

MATTHEWS: You know, I have to say personally, on a personal basis,
nobody I like to bump into more and meet than Hillary Clinton. I get the
biggest giggle out of meeting her. She is something else in person. I say
that to our worst enemies, meet her and you`ll be amazed.

Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh, and Matt Cooper. I got a little
chuckle out of Joan with that one.

Up next, that alleged terror plot by Iran -- this is serious -- to
assassinate the Saudi ambassador here in Washington. How high up the
ladder did that go?

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Boy, a lot -- all of us have been watching these anti-Wall
Street -- look at them. There they are, protests around the country,
especially up on Wall Street.

Well, now, we have our first idea of what Americans think of those
demonstrations. Our new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll out today asked
people whether they support or oppose the protests. A plurality tend to
support that, something less than 50, but most; 37 percent say they tend to
support the "Occupy Wall Street" protests versus 18 percent who say they
oppose them.

That 18 is a pretty low number. That suggests the protests might have
legs and more importantly political value to the Democrats especially.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea that you
would assassinate a diplomat, that is something for the whole world, every
nation in the world will learn the facts of this will be outraged. This is
all about keeping the world united in opposition to the activities of Iran,
and we`ve taken nothing off the table. We will take nothing off the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s Vice President Biden this morning, of course, reacting to the
alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador here in Washington.

So, what does this alleged plot tell us about Iran`s terrorism
ambitions and how high up in the Iranian government does this plot actually
go? We don`t know.

Evan Kohlmann is an MSNBC terrorism analyst. Robin Wright is a fellow
at the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center, also
author of "Rock the Kasbah: Rage and Rebellion across the Islamic World."

Robin, what do we know now?

ROBIN WRIGHT, UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Well, the United
States has made some very serious allegations about Iran`s intent to
assassinate the Saudi ambassador.

This is a fascinating story because Iran is capable of so much more.
It was engaged in the support role, allegedly, behind the largest loss of
U.S. military life in a single incident since World War II in the bombing
of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1982. It`s been involved, allegedly,
in bombings of U.S. embassies. It`s allegedly been involved in attacks in
Iraq and Afghanistan, in facilitating, arming and so forth.

MATTHEWS: So Hezbollah?

WRIGHT: Through Hezbollah, through proxies.

This case doesn`t make sense in a lot of different ways. If it`s
true, then something dramatic has changed in Iran.

MATTHEWS: How they got away with it, the assassins? If they would
have gotten caught, they would have talked?

WRIGHT: Well, most of the time, Iran has used cutouts, and it`s been
quite effective. The idea of using a car salesman from Corpus Christi,
Texas, working through the Mexican drug cartel is not clearly in keeping
with its past operations.

MATTHEWS: It looks there they got caught.

Let me go to an expert on this, Evan Kohlmann.

Would they risk getting caught in an operation where they go and try
to buy a Mexican cartel to do their dirty work, to plant a bomb in a
Washington restaurant to kill the ambassador? It seems like our FBI would
be able to trace that to them.

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, the calculus here is
very strange. If you try to imagine this as the product of collective
thinking on the part of the Iranian government, it seems like this is
Russian roulette. I mean, if you killed the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.,
you would be guaranteeing a very serious U.S. reaction, and I would believe
a military one.

So, it`s difficult to understand this as a product of collective
thinking. It`s much easier to try to understand this as maybe the product
of a rogue individual within the revolutionary guard corps or the Quds
force -- somebody who`s influential, somebody who`s very powerful, maybe
somebody who`s very senior. But you wonder how many others within the
Iranian government really had fingerprints on this.

MATTHEWS: What`s the purpose besides mayhem of killing the Saudi
ambassador here in Washington? What would you gain strategically if you`re
already hated by the United States, you`re already under all kinds of
embargoes from the West, this would add to those embargoes, add to the
sanction, add to the hatred and fear of Iran`s troublemaking.

KOHLMANN: Yes, and I think most importantly, especially for the
countries involved here, Iran desperately needs China to stay out of what`s
going on at the U.N. Security Council. If China, all of a sudden, had a
reason, i.e., instability in Saudi Arabia, to be in favor of greater
sanctions against Iran, greater against Iran, it just doesn`t make any
sense.

I mean, the Chinese right now are staying out of this. The last thing
that Iran wants to do is push them into cooperating with the U.S. in
further sanctions. It`s a very strange calculus.

MATTHEWS: You know, one thing missing in the debates last night, I
want to shift a little because you know this stuff, you would expect the
right wing candidates especially last night, the real right wing like
Bachmann and people over there -- it`s hard to tell who isn`t right wing in
the Republican Party. I don`t think Romney is or Huntsman.

They would be pushing the Iran button right now. Why don`t we bomb
those nuclear facilities in Iran? Why don`t we do this for Israel? Why
don`t we do this for us?

You used to expect that kind of bell to wring. How come that bell
hasn`t rung yet in these debates?

WRIGHT: Well, you know --

MATTHEWS: It should be coming up all the time, you would think.

WRIGHT: Well, Romney has talked about a line in the sand over Iran`s
nuclear program, which again is another reason it doesn`t make sense, that
this is a time Iran is trying to avoid more sanctions because of its
controversial nuclear program. And it knows that -- Iran doesn`t want to
be an issue in the American presidential election.

MATTHEWS: OK.

WRIGHT: So, the timing of this doesn`t work. The fact that no one
has yet talked about Iran in more specific terms, it will come.

MATTHEWS: Do we have a right-wing -- a far -- I don`t know if these
terms mean anything -- an extremist government in Tehran right know that
might support something like an attack on Saudi ambassador here? Evan?

KOHLMANN: I just don`t think so. I mean, you`d say what you like
about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I don`t know if he`s going to win any award for
a Nobel Peace Prize.

MATTHEWS: OK.

KOHLMANN: But I just don`t think he`s that irrational. I think he of
all people wants to avoid a direct confrontation with the United States.

MATTHEWS: OK. Got you.

KOHLMANN: So it seems very strange.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for coming. I love that assessment.
It`s quick and clear.

Thank you, Evan Kohlmann.

KOHLMANN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Robin Wright.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the clown show that is the 2012
Republican presidential debate team, if you call it that.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this -- I don`t think the
Republican Party is enjoying a robust competition for its nomination. In a
year when you would expect a feisty all-out battle for the nomination, the
chance to go one-on-one with a weakened Democratic president, you would
expect to see several serious candidates testing each other`s abilities.
Instead, we`ve seen a bizarre pattern of one conservative candidate after
another put up his head, then bow it, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Christie.

The head up now is businessman Herman Cain. But the pattern is clear.
Each rises and then fades -- each with one main appeal: as an alternative
to Mitt Romney.

Last night, this odd ritual of despair on the Tea Party-led right to
what a fair-minded observer might think was a clown show, but for the
sober-minded Romney, think of what was on display last night. Rick Perry
confessing he came to a debate on the economy without a plan for jobs. Did
the dog eat his homework?

A U.S. congresswoman responding to a proposal by another candidate by
saying his 999 tax proposal could be a cover for 666, the sign of the
beast. What did Ms. Bachmann mean by saying this in a presidential debate?
Was it a joke?

If so, where is the humor in making an off-the-wall reference to the
devil, or was she simply clowning around? What did she mean when she
warned students in the audience that they would be paying a 75 percent
income tax rate?

What did former Senator Santorum mean when he said he wanted to
eliminate all together the corporate tax on manufacturing and replace it
with what?

What kind of conversation was that last night around that table?

Then in a special category of malevolence came Newt Gingrich`s charge
that Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank should be imprisoned
for passing legislation regulating financial institutions. Well, this is a
Gingrich bomb-throwing, it seemed to actually fit in last night around the
strange table, where one person seemed to be the adult, and so many others
were simply acting the part of clowns, doing anything to get attention,
having realized that the contest, such as it was, seems at least for this
fall season to be over.

Perhaps the caucuses and primaries of January will bring out a higher
level of seriousness. Sadly for the country, it is too late to bring out a
more serious cast of candidates. That hope is gone, as the viewers of last
night came to discover.

Again, the question looms: why in a year they had a chance to lead
have the Tea Party-jibed Republicans shown up with such a pathetic array of
hopefuls.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

END


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