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updated 10/14/2011 9:47:33 AM ET 2011-10-14T13:47:33

Guests: Dana Milbank, Ron Reagan, John Larson, William Donohue


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hitting Mitt and raising Cain.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Team Obama says it`s Mitt. President Obama`s campaign team has seen the
Republican future and it`s Mitt Romney, or certainly most likely Mitt, so
they`ve decided to take him on, to define him before he can define himself,
to go after Romney early. And one reason they`re doing it is because the
other -- well, the GOP candidates haven`t done it. Obama versus Romney,
our top story tonight.

Plus, raising Cain. He tops the Republican charts in our new NBC
News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, but what happens when people realize his
9-9-9 plan is designed to shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor
and middle class? Excuse me, maybe they`re going to like that idea on the
Republican side.

Also, there`s no question the Occupy Wall Street protests are growing
in size and intensity. My question tonight, how do the marchers translate
their genuine anger and frustration into actual change? Once they`ve done
getting attention, how do they get laws passed? And we`re going to get to
that tonight.

And William Donohue, the head of the Catholic League, is calling on
Rick Perry to cut ties with Pastor Robert Jeffress, who -- well, he`s the
man who called Mormonism a cult, who has called Catholicism a fake
religion.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with my belief that an American`s religion is
a poor guide to their politics and an even worse guide to their worth as a
leader.

We start with Obama versus Romney. Dana Milbank`s a columnist, and a
brilliant one, I must say, for "The Washington Post," and Ron Reagan is a
political commentator, and I don`t have to say brilliant.

By the way, Obama`s senior strategist -- just to get the story going
tonight -- on a conference call late yesterday, on the record now,
criticized Mitt Romney and made it clear the Obama camp thinks Romney`s the
one to beat November next year.

Here`s a sampling of today`s headlines, by the way, in the papers.
"Obama camp sets sights on Romney" -- that`s in Politico. "Team Obama
flips out over Romney" in "The New York Post." "Mitt Romney, GOP front-
runner in 2012 presidential race, now focus of White House, Democratic
barbs" -- that`s in "The New York Daily News." So everybody`s onto this
story right now.

Dana Milbank, start with you. It looks to me like they`ve decided
they`ve got to hit this guy now. There`s pluses and minuses. Why is Obama
hauling out the cannon now?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, look, the Iowa caucuses are
two months away, but the Chicago caucuses were held this week. And Axelrod
got on the phone with Plouffe and the others and said they had to do this.
They didn`t want to do it because they wanted to have this titanic battle
with all of the Republicans going after each other, doing Obama`s work for
him. Unfortunately, that didn`t work out...

MATTHEWS: I think they made him their May queen this last debate.
They were all romping around him like a rope, saying how great he is.

MILBANK: Exactly. They were -- three weeks ago, they were saying
they really don`t want to kill Rick Perry off just yet because they think
they could do some more damage to Romney. They no longer -- they feel that
they have to get into the game now. They didn`t want to sully themselves
at this point, but there`s no choice.

MATTHEWS: Well, here it is. This is Romney`s debate comments about
the payroll tax that put the Obama team in a fighting stance. Let`s
listen. They think they`ve got some opportunity here. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the payroll tax cut is not extended, that
would mean a tax increase for all Americans. What would be the
consequences of that?

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, when you
give -- as the president`s bill does, if you give a temporary change to the
payroll tax and you say, We`re going to extend this for a year or two --
employers don`t hire people for a year or two. And what it takes to create
jobs is more than just a temporary shift in a tax stimulus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax
cut...

ROMNEY: Look, I don`t like temporary little Band-Aids. I want to
fundamentally restructure America`s foundation economically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Little Band-Aids." He was talking about the payroll tax,
talking about unemployment comp, which is the only source of livelihood for
people who`ve been unemployed for a year or two.

Here`s President Obama sending out a video to supporters yesterday
about Republicans and the payroll tax cut, and he took a swipe at Romney
along the way, although, of course, not by name yet. Getting close,
though. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ll be forced to
decide whether we should cut taxes for middle class Americans or let them
go up next year. In fact, that`s exactly what one of the leading
Republican presidential candidates suggested we do during last night`s
debate, allow taxes to rise by up to $1,000 next year for struggling middle
class families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It`s already hand to hand, the president against Romney.
The Democratic National Committee was quickly out with this Web video
criticizing Romney. Let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I`m not worried ability rich people. They`re doing just
fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax
cut...

ROMNEY: Look, I don`t like temporary little Band-Aids.

Corporations are people, my friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I think they got that music, Ron, out of some Italian
comedy. I don`t know where they got that one from!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I guess it was meant to be rinky-dink. Anyway, going after
Romney, putting him down, miniaturizing him, basically, saying, Here`s a
guy looking out for the rich, who thinks that unemployment comp is first
aid, a Band-Aid.

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and the Democrats seem to
have hit on his weak spot also in terms of the flip-flopping. Are we
hearing more from Mitt here?

MATTHEWS: I`m hearing from you. Can you hear me?

REAGAN: Oh, I`m sorry. I saw Mitt up on the screen.

MATTHEWS: I`m all ears, Ron!

REAGAN: All right. Well, they seem to have hit on that weak spot,
too, of his flip-flopping, and I think that`s really going to hurt him with
everybody. Mitt Romney basically has two constituencies, right? He`s got
the conservatives, who he has to win for the primaries, but he`s got
independents, who he needs for the general election.

So I think the Obama campaign eventually will settle on a sort of two-
track strategy there. And for the conservatives, I think it will involve -
- I would think it would involve a warm embrace over "Romney care,"
reminding people that the Romney plan in Massachusetts was really what
Obama based his health care plan on. That ought to please conservative
Republicans a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Yes, they`re putting out words, Dana, that -- putting out
words the last couple days that Obama benefited by the -- from the
specialists of the Romney camp. They were actually helping him define --
design his program based upon the success of "Obama care," earlier version,
meaning "Romney care."

MILBANK: It`s very generous of them. But you know, there`s a little
bit of schizophrenia going on here in how Obama`s handling Romney. On the
one hand, they want to do the flip-flopper, turn him into Al Gore, a little
bit of John Kerry. But that`s a fundamental change from where they`d been
earlier in saying he`s just as conservative as Rick Perry. You know, it`s
conservative monster versus flip-flopper. You can`t really have it both
ways because they`re going at each other. But it seems that...

MATTHEWS: What`s the stronger attack? Mark Penn was sitting there in
that seat a couple days ago, and he said the strongest attack, if you`re
Obama and his team and want to keep the White House for four more years, is
nail this guy as a conservative, a man of the right. Let him -- stick him
in the cement over there.

MILBANK: That`s how it had been until, you know, as recently as a
couple of weeks ago. They have made that pivot now. Maybe they decided
they can`t, compared to that Republican...

MATTHEWS: They better decide what they think about the guy. Here`s
another DNC Web video, Ron. Take a look. This is the one you were
anticipating, out this week. It takes on Romney`s changing position on Roe
v. Wade. I`m not sure what they`re doing, but let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20
years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support
that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.

And that`s why as a pro-life Republican, I`m in favor of having the
Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s a great question, Ron, and I think Dana`s made it.
You were alluding to it earlier. What his this attack on Romney? Is his
attack that Romney is a conservative? Or is it he doesn`t know what he is
because he might be a man of the middle? My worry -- before you get
started -- is the middle may be where most of the votes are come 2012, and
it may not be so smart to say he might just be a man of the middle,
therefore your man, to the voter.

REAGAN: Well, being a man of the middle is one thing, but not being a
man of any stripe whatsoever is another. And I think what they want to do
is hang that label on him, that this is a guy who will say anything to get
through the week. And that happens to be, apparently, the truth. I mean,
both things are true.

I disagree with Dana a little bit. I do think the Obama
administration can have it both ways with Mitt Romney because both things
are true. He is now claiming a more conservative mantle, so you can go
after independent voters by reminding them of all the things he`s now said
while running for the Republican -- in the Republican primary, but for
conservatives, remind them that he flip-flops all the time, and again,
embrace him on "O-Romney care," or whatever you want to call it.

ROMNEY: Well, certainly, every time that Obama or his surrogates open
their mouth about Romney now, they`re only helping Romney because no matter
what they say, if Obama doesn`t like Romney, that`s going to put him in
better shape with the conservatives and his party. That`s why it`s so
unusual to come out this early. And I think it presages a very ugly
campaign to come, the fact that we`re seeing the Roe V. Wade ad coming out
at this early phase.

MATTHEWS: Yes, do you guys -- does any of you -- either of you guys
doubt that if the country lurches further right in the next year or two --
God help us if it does -- that Romney won`t be right there with them?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Ron, you first. You think he might catch up to the crowd?

REAGAN: Of course he will! Yes. He`ll follow the crowd wherever he
has to in order to win the primaries. I mean, that`s just what he`s going
to have to do. But...

MATTHEWS: Are you saying he`s a mood ring, a man who`s just capable
of...

REAGAN: Yes!

MATTHEWS: ... wanting...

REAGAN: Of course he is!

MATTHEWS: ... but he doesn`t know what he wants? He just wants to be
loved enough to be president, whatever that happens to be...

REAGAN: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s that bad?

MILBANK: Right. sort of the Woody Allen "Zelig" character, who he
adopts to the attitudes of the people around him. But that`s also
potentially good news for the left because maybe he`ll get into office, and
who knows? Nobody really knows...

MATTHEWS: But see that`s the -- this is the one weird thing, Ron.
You`re hitting him on the way that some of the right-wing guys will hit
him, and you`re not a man of the right.

A lot of the right-wingers say, Why should we do another Herbert
Walker Bush or another Bush W.? We`ve elected people that look like rich
people. They have old money in both -- all three cases. Every time we put
one of these WASPy, old-money people in the White House, who say they`re a
conservative, they flip into the establishment in one way or another,
either by spending so much money or taxing us or something. They say, Read
my lips, then they go write taxes. They say they`re not going to be big
spenders and G.W. is the biggest spender.

They despise that kind of flip-flopping. You say that liberals
should, as well, despise it.

REAGAN: I think everybody despises that sort of flip-flopping.
That`s what we forget. It`s not a partisan issue. When you see somebody
who doesn`t seem to stand for anything, who goes whichever way the wind
blows, you distrust him, no matter what his politics are. And that`s just
one of the problems Mitt Romney has.

MATTHEWS: But didn`t you want a Slinky when you were a kid?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m just kidding! That was my favorite toy, the thing that
went up and down the stairs and slinked from one -- Dana, does both sides
hate Slinkys?

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: Well, and see-saws. I mean, Americans love a see-saw, I
think. There`s real potential here.

MATTHEWS: Oh, God! This is dangerous, these metaphors. Thank you,
Dana. I think we agree we don`t like flip-floppers or Slinkys unless we`re
8 years old. Thank you, Dana Milbank, and thank you, Ron Reagan. You must
have had a Slinky!

Coming up: Herman Cain`s the new leader...

REAGAN: I had a Slinky!

MATTHEWS: ... of the Republican Party. Let`s talk about raising
Cain. It looks to me like Romney wants this guy to be his only alternative
so he can knock him out in, like, the fourth round. Just my guess. He
wants him as his -- look at him looking there kind of fondly.

You`re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a number from our new NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll just out last night that gives Democrats hope of taking back
the House. What a number this is! After all the bad talk, the Democrats
now lead -- lead! -- by 4 points, 45 to 41, in the generic ballot on "Who
do you want running the Congress" -- 45 to 41. That`s a fairly substantial
lead, I think just at the edge of the -- of the -- what do you call it -- I
forget what you call it -- margin of error.

Anyway, that`s a 10-point swing from last month. Well, that`s a big
switch, when Democrats -- the voters preferred Republicans to be in control
by 47 to 41. That is a real shift. I can`t quite explain it except the
Republicans have been holding out on every issue. And that`s the largest
lead Democrats have had on that question for5 two years. So something`s
perking up for the Ds or perking down for the Rs.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. How does Herman Cain plot a
course to the Republican nomination? Does he have a real shot, in fact? A
lot of people were asking themselves that question after yesterday`s big
surprise result of our own NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll.

After all this talk and buzz and straw votes, here`s a real national
poll, we think the best poll there is, now showing Herman Cain -- look at
him, up from 5 percent up to 27 percent, while Mitt Romney frozen there at
23. Two months -- nothing has changed. Rick Perry`s support has gone way
down from 38 percent down to 16. Everything`s moving, except Romney`s
staying still and Cain is rising. So he`s clearly on the rise.

But is this just the latest in a long line of Republican contenders
who have taken the anti-Romney mantle for a brief period, only to lose it?
Past examples, of course, include Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, and of
course, Rick Perry most recently. In fact, if you look at the poll between
August and October, Rick Perry lost 22 percentage points, while Herman Cain
basically gained back that 22, took it away from him.

Has Cain got the staying power? What is his game plan for actually
winning the nomination?

We`ve got an expert here right now, Michael Steele, an MSNBC political
analyst, and of course, the former RNC chair, and another expert who`s
independent and a great journalist, of course, Howard Fineman, editorial
director for Huffington Post.

Now, I want you to start, Michael, from the inside...

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... and I want the outside view from Howard. He always has
a notebook open for this. If you look at the fact that all this is coming
pretty quickly now...

STEELE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: I mean, we`re halfway through October. November, December,
then the game`s up.

STEELE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: So he has to have a plan to win the Iowa caucuses, probably
win or do very well, do decently well in New Hampshire, and then perhaps
have to win by South Carolina, at least compete.

Tell me how you would take these bulbous poll numbers and apply that
and get it going on the ground in Iowa to start with?

STEELE: Well, I think that, first off, you`ve got to -- right now,
the Cain campaign is doing sort of the, Holy crap, OK, this thing is really
beginning to gel for us. And so there`s a little bit of shell shock there.

But I think the reality for him right now is to get off the book tour
and to really get on the ground in at least one of those two states because
if he posts very well, like, in an Iowa or New Hampshire, then he locks in
-- he locks in that vote.

And that`s what the voters are saying right now. We like you enough
that we`re prepared to lock in with you and take this ride. And I think
not so much, necessarily, for the nomination, but at least the number two
spot, I think you...

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about number two in two minutes.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: In the first minute, Howard, here`s the question. Can he
pull a Huckabee in Iowa without a whole lot of ground game? Can he win
that thing?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, he`s as eloquent as Mike Huckabee. I saw Herman Cain in front of the
New Hampshire legislature yesterday, and he hit it out of the park. He was
quoting from the "book of Ronald," you know, chapter and verse, as in
Ronald Reagan. He talked about "Live free or die." He hit every chord of
the New Hampshire conservative heart.

But he doesn`t have an organization. He doesn`t really have one in
Iowa. He doesn`t really have one in New Hampshire. I mean, this is the
point where anybody who has not signed up has to get signed up, and talking
to people, Republicans all across the board in New Hampshire the last
previous couple days, I didn`t hear any big organization for Herman Cain
getting out there.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: That`s the problem. Now, Mitt Romney has got big numbers in
New Hampshire, but as somebody pointed out to me, you know, all of Romney`s
road signs are on the highways, they`re not on people`s lawns, so -- which
is -- that matters.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: People aren`t putting the signs on their lawns, OK? So
there`s the lawn factor. Herman Cain`s got to get some signs on some lawns
in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he`s got to do it fast. I haven`t seen it
yet.

MATTHEWS: Can I ask you an existential question?

STEELE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: I mean, you`re African-American...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... party that doesn`t have a whole lot of African-
Americans, so I`m not going to play the umpire and say it can`t happen. I
am skeptical, though...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... of his success in that party, your party. Now, here`s
the question. Why wouldn`t he go for it? Sure, he`s got a book tour.
He`ll have a bigger book tour...

STEELE: Oh, sure.

MATTHEWS: ... if he gets to be the nominee.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he say, OK, I didn`t think it was going to
happen. It`s found money. It`s like guys like make who get on television.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Hey, I`m on! I`m going to do it right!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m going to learn the business. Why doesn`t he learn how
to be an organizational politician?

STEELE: I think he will. I think he will.

I think right now that there are people who are going to be lining up,
certainly some of the political intelligentsia who wants to work on this
campaign, be a part of it.

MATTHEWS: Is he a good bet?

STEELE: I think he is a good bet. I would go long on Cain right now.
I wouldn`t short him like you could short some of the others.

MATTHEWS: Would the fallback be he gets the V.P.?

STEELE: Absolutely. I think the base right now have found the guy
that they have connected with the most, more than the others.

MATTHEWS: That`s for sure.

STEELE: And I think right now with his plan on his 999, he`s got to
come correct on that. He`s got to be able to defend that and really push
on that, but I think the base is kind of locked in on this guy and they
like him.

And if Romney is the go-to for the nomination, then Herman Cain is the
guy who gets him to the goalposts.

MATTHEWS: OK. I have got to ask a race question, because there`s a
couple -- not because I like -- but it`s America, after all.

Tim Scott, South Carolina. You have got Allen West. You have -- you
certainly had J.C. years ago, J.C. Watts.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Republicans will vote African-Americans who agree with them
on policy...

STEELE: Sure. Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... if they`re ideological, right? But will they do it for
president?

STEELE: Oh, I think they will. I think they will.

I think that that dynamic, it`s going to be tested. Obviously, it`s
going to be tested.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: But I think Herman Cain has put the seeds in place. Now he`s
got to germinate it by putting the organization together.

MATTHEWS: Let`s see if he can do it.

Here`s Cain -- where does Cain`s support come from? Well, according
to the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, fascinating numbers, he has
more support from people who say they`re highly interested in the campaign,
in other words, intense conservatives, people over 55, that`s interesting,
men. This is a conservative profile, People with college degrees, Tea
Party supporters, people who identify themselves as very conservative.

Let me go to Howard here.

And Romney supporters on the other end tend to be liberals. They
consider themselves to be less interested, women.

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Not less interested in women, but women, non-Tea Party
Republicans, and moderate or liberal Republicans.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So, Howard, this is so interesting.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is what you might expect. He`s the Tea Party
candidate. He`s won what I call the Western conference, where Romney wins
the Eastern conference.

FINEMAN: Yes. Yes. And, by the way, that description of Cain
supporters was basically the floor of the New Hampshire legislature, which
has turned very Republican in the last year or so.

MATTHEWS: Oh, really?

FINEMAN: They`re all 55-year-old guys, you know, with weird sports
coats and flat-top hair cuts. That`s to generalize only slightly.

But the problem, I think, that Herman Cain has got is not race. It`s
the fact that 999 is very controversial because of sales taxes, and because
he keeps saying, whenever he`s asked how he`s going to solve a problem in
specific, he keeps saying, I will turn to my advisers, I will turn to my
group of advisers.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: Who are those advisers?

MATTHEWS: Rich Lowrie.

FINEMAN: It all seems kind of -- it seems kind of on the fly. It
seems a little too on the fly. He`s not only got to get an organization,
he`s got to get some substance.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s teach the people. Let`s learn some things here
myself. "The New York Times" describes Cain`s 999 plan as "little more
than a sketch that would be a radical and complex overhaul of the tax
system. In developing it, Mr. Cain relied heavily on Rich Lowrie, whom he
calls his lead economist. Mr. Lowrie is an investment adviser at a Wells
Fargo office in Pepper Pike, Ohio."

Well, they can put down all they want in "The New York Times."

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: My question is, is the Republican Party ready to shift our
tax burden from income for personal into -- our taxes you and I pay and
corporate income taxes over to the consumer? I think they might. It`s a
more regressive tax. It hits the little people more. Are they that
cynical to say, yes, let`s lay more tax burden on little people?

STEELE: I don`t think they are. And I think that`s the rub. And I
think Howard`s right on that point there. I think ultimately that`s the
rub.

When you look at a state like New Hampshire that does not have a sales
tax, all of a sudden you`re going to impose a federally imposed 9 percent
sales tax?

MATTHEWS: Nine percent.

STEELE: That is going to be hard to swallow for a lot of folks.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They don`t have any taxes in New Hampshire.

STEELE: Right, exactly. So I`m sitting here thinking that the
excitement that`s been generated by Herman has not necessarily just broken
down into the meat of his proposals.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: And so we will see whether or not he can...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that will be -- Howard, that will be an acid test,
when people begin to take his programs seriously. They mean they`re taking
him seriously as an actual, possible president, not just a fun way of not
voting for Mitt.

FINEMAN: Right. And that`s what`s going to happen over the next two
or three weeks. The way this campaign has been run, everybody gets a
couple of weeks, they go and they sort of get chopped up in the meat
grinder and come back out the other side. If they`re still standing, fine.

None of them has so far. And Mitt Romney had 23 percent before, still
has 23 percent. He`s the only constant -- he`s the only sort of constant,
constant in the race at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: And because he`s a constant, that means he`s got a...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me try this. If you take half the country who is
Republicans, that`s 23 percent of 50, that`s about -- he will get 11.5
percent going into the general election, right?

OK. I`m just kidding. Howard -- it could be.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: ... funny man.

MATTHEWS: That gives Obama about 87.5 percent.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman.

Thank you, Michael Steele.

STEELE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It looks like it may happen, Cain for president.

Up next, Hillary Clinton gets an answer to the question some people
just can`t resist asking. That "Today Show" keeps pounding her on this
question. She had to answer it again today. That`s in the "Sideshow"
next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, one way or the other, GOP candidate Mitt Romney takes up
both sides of an issue, depending on where he is and who he`s talking to.
Sound familiar? Well, it`s a fat target for the late-night guys. Let`s
watch Jimmy Fallon go at it on last night`s show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Hello. I`m Mitt
Romney.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: No, I`m not.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: And I`m ready to fight for America.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Nuh-uh.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: I have a job plan to help deal with our nation`s soaring
unemployment, and this plan will bring jobs back to our country.

That jobs plan won`t work.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: I`m a patriot and I love the red, white, and blue.

I also love the colors orange and purple.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Of course, magenta`s the best.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: Send me to Washington so we can finally put regular,
hardworking people above these greedy corporations.

Corporations are people.

(LAUGHTER)

FALLON: I`m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was pretty good.

Now to the question, is Romney a moderate? Good question. Or is he a
conservative? Well, here`s the keeper of all things holy and conservative
to tell us.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW")

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Romney is not a conservative.
He`s not, folks. But you can argue with he all day long on that, but he
isn`t. This isn`t personal, not with what the country faces and so forth.

I like him very much. I have spent some social time with him. He`s a
fine guy. He`s a very nice gentleman. He is a gentleman. But he`s not a
conservative.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it from the grand vizier of
conservatism: Romney`s not one of them.

Next up, travel snafu, that might just be the case for former
President George W. Bush as he firms up the details for a trip to the
Canadian province of British Columbia next week for an economic summit.
What`s the catch? The human rights group, the great group Amnesty
International has officially called on the Canadian government to arrest
the former president for violating international laws, saying -- quote --
"Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and
prosecute former President Bush given his responsibility for crimes under
international law, including torture."

Well, it looks like Bush is in the clear for now, at least, since the
Canadian government had nothing but criticism for Amnesty International and
for their call for his arrest, although this is not an entirely new
situation for President Bush, as he felt compelled to scrap a trip to
Switzerland back in February when human rights groups were similarly
calling for his arrest there.

And, finally, one more time, here`s Hillary Clinton saying one more
time there`s no possibility that she will get the upgrade to veep.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC ANCHOR: If you Googled yourself today, you
would find suggestion that perhaps you would be vice president, that there
would be a switcheroo and that you might possibly be the vice president,
and Biden would come over here as secretary of state. Is there any chance
you would be vice president in the second term?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No, there is not.

GUTHRIE: Is it in the realm of possibility?

CLINTON: I do not think it`s even in the realm of possibility.

GUTHRIE: Has anyone ever raised it, the possibility with you?

CLINTON: No. I think it`s maybe a subject for speculation on Google
but it`s not a serious issue in the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you heard it, I think, finally, although I`m
sure it will come back again.

Up next, those Occupy Wall Street protests are gaining some traction,
but -- that`s the big question here -- can the protesters turn their anger
into real action, real change in this country? Everybody wants to know
that, I think, even the bad guys. Can they make something happen, those
people?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, stocks ending mixed after a day of choppy trade. The Dow Jones
industrial falling 40 points, the S&P 500 slipping three, but the Nasdaq
adding 15. Caution was the word of the day today, as investors weighed
earnings from J.P. Morgan, balancing those against some weaker-than-
expected trade data out of China. The banking giant reported a 4 percent
drop in quarterly earnings as the European debt crisis sidelined investors.

Meanwhile, China`s trade surplus narrowed for the second month in a
row in September with exports in particular coming in much lower than
expected. Elsewhere, the tech sector got a boost from a ratings upgrade
for chipmaker Broadcom, and AOL shares bounced on reports CEO Tim Armstrong
has been meeting with shareholders to push the idea of selling the company
to Yahoo!.

Google shares are also soaring in after-hours trade on a blockbuster
quarterly earnings report that was delivered after the closing bell.

And that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- back to
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is still in its infancy, of course,
but the protesters have gained the support of about a third of the country
now. That`s according to our new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll this week.
And it`s a great poll -- 37 percent say they support the movement. That`s
higher than the number that supports the Tea Party. That`s a significant
advantage, which is 26 percent.

But there are still real questions about the staying power of those
people -- there they are -- camped out in the streets of New York, and
where does it go and where will it find tangible support in Washington, if
it does, and, for that matter, will anyone step up to act as a leader for
the movement, or at least represent their concerns here in Washington?

John Larson is a congressman from Connecticut and chairman of the
Democratic Caucus. He joins us now.

Congressman Larson, you are a levelheaded leader of the party, the
Democratic Party, and I keep waiting for that crosswalk, for all this
energy and passion in the streets of New York and elsewhere across the
country to come up with, A., a clear message, a clear demand for a specific
action, and for you guys on the center and left in American politics to,
damn it, do it. When will that day occur?

REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, from your lips to God`s
ears, Chris. We hope it would happen.

The frustration just mounts here. I don`t think that there`s any
third-grader in America who doesn`t the understand that two-thirds of the
nation supports the president`s jobs bill -- 14 million Americans out of
work, 25 million underemployed, and they read in the paper bill passes
Senate 51/49, president`s bill defeated.

It doesn`t add up. It doesn`t make sense. But, then again, neither
does the cloture vote, in my opinion, and I think the opinion of a lot of
Americans. And then the act that the Senate does do, in terms of China
currency, is approved by an overwhelming majority, and yet held up from
coming to the floor in the House.

There is hope in this super committee. And I think the efforts of
people who have taken this frustration to the streets are important. Now,
whether or not we`re able to tap into that -- when I say we, I mean the
country. What`s at stake here is the country seizing this opportunity to
do the right thing on behalf of 14 million Americans out of work.

MATTHEWS: OK. But you guys keep blowing it.

Look, here, why didn`t...

LARSON: Yes. Well...

MATTHEWS: ... Harry Reid jump on McConnell the other day, when
McConnell said, I`m going to give you an up-or-down vote right now on
either the president`s version of the bill or Harry Reid`s version of the
bill? And he could have said, OK, we will do it, and I`m going to give you
51 -- or 50 votes plus the vice president and we will have the damn jobs
bill passed. He could have done it that split-second.

Instead, he held back and said, oh, I can`t get Bill Nelson on this or
I can`t get Mary Landrieu.

If he had been able to deliver his troops, we would have a jobs bill,
maybe, at least through the Senate. You know that.

LARSON: Well, certainly at least in the...

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m telling you what you already know.

LARSON: Yes, at least in the Senate, yes.

MATTHEWS: But I wish -- I wish the Democratic Party would jump and
see their opportunities and say, damn it, it`s never going to be perfect,
and you know I`m right, and grab that baby.

LARSON: Yes, you are right.

And you know what, Chris? I think you were probably one of the few
people that pointed out -- and I share this view -- that Mitch McConnell
should have been "TIME" man of the year last year. I mean, when we were in
the majority, they blocked 497 bills.

To see this bill fail, when the majority of America supports it and a
majority of the Senate supports it -- you`re right. They should have
seized the day. It should have been a carpe diem moment for the Senate.
They did not.

And the prospects of the House taking up the bill are probably nil.
So, our hopes really pin on this select, this super committee that`s out
there. And as you have heard me say several times, we believe very
strongly that, look, deficit -- job creation equals deficit reduction.

The CBO has said very clearly, a third of the deficit can be reduced
by putting people back to work. And there are like-minded Republicans.

MATTHEWS: OK.

LARSON: We`re hopeful that we can reach across that divide, but I
hope the people continue to take to the streets and put the pressure on.

MATTHEWS: I just -- it seems to me, Congressman, and you have all the
leadership ability and you`re respected by your colleagues, it just seems
to me this tax structure is going to get changed eventually, I suppose.
Maybe you`ll get rid of capital gains treatments, maybe some day in 100
years.

But the jobs situation is right now -- you`ve got an unemployment
situation that looks like it`s going to stay with us for two or three
years, around 10 percent. It may go back up by over 10. We don`t know.

Isn`t it seems it`s time to do something more than just even this
bill, and really put 2 million or 3 million people to work right now, it
would be a healthier country? And I don`t know why the president can`t
find some way to do that. I don`t know what he does. I don`t know what he
does, but put the pressure, go on the road and don`t stop pounding. I
don`t know.

LARSON: Exactly. And I don`t know how many more times he can reach
out to the other side.

But clearly, he has a bill that`s before Congress. And whether you
agree or disagree with that bill, my God, give it an up-or-down vote. It`s
-- we know that it`s got a majority of the Senate that supports it by
virtue of the vote yesterday.

MATTHEWS: I know.

LARSON: Take the bill up, for God`s sake, including Eric Cantor`s
proposals, include Mitch McConnell`s proposals. But let`s act on behalf of
the American people. That`s the frustration of the Wall Street movement is
that there`s no action down here. And it`s all caught up in inside the
Beltway jargon.

Who, for God`s sake, understands what a cloture vote is out there?
You do. Other people do. But most of the American public says, my God,
can`t they do something down there? And that is the frustration expressed
by people who have taken to the streets.

MATTHEWS: Well, maybe you should take every port proposal by every
Republican in the last 10 years, put it in one bill and say yes.

Anyway, thank you very much, Congressman Larson. That`s almost
serious about that. Thanks for coming on. Good luck in translating the
actions and voices in the street into action.

And we are joined right now by E.J. Dionne. He`s right on top of
this, as a columnist with the "Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.

E.J., here`s -- just got a couple of minutes now. Tell the country
right now what you said on your column today.

E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what you got right now
is a Republican Party that is so committed to the idea that government
shouldn`t do anything, shouldn`t intervene in the economy, that their
solution is, the way you solve a big problem is for government to do
nothing about it.

And I quoted this old Barney Frank line where he took about reverse
Houdinis, who are people who tied themselves all up in knots and say, I`m
sorry, I can`t do anything because I`m all tied up in knots. And I think
the country actually wants action, Rand Paul says it, to get the economy
moving. They know the government has got to invest because private
investors aren`t investing right now.

But you can`t get anything through. You saw that on the Republican
debate and you saw that in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take look at this poll, NBC News/"Wall Street
Journal" poll, a hell of a poll. It`s our poll and it`s a good one.

Look at these numbers -- 63 percent favor the president`s jobs bill.
That`s 2/3. That`s rare in America. That`s for construction jobs and fair
taxes.

Another one here, raising taxes on the wealthy -- 64 percent, E.J.
These aren`t close calls. The country wants what the president wants, they
like the president personally.

Let`s get back to Obama for a minute, without laying it all on the
Republicans. Why can`t a popular person, who has popular ideas, push them
through?

What`s missing between Obama`s personal popularity, the popularity of
his proposals on jobs and taxes, and he can`t move it? Is it just
Republican obstructionism or is there something he doesn`t know how to
scare people with? He can`t lead by scaring? By what?

What`s missing here? Is it just obstructionism? Is that all it is?

DIONNE: If his own poll numbers are at 60 percent, a lot of these
Republicans would be more reluctant to block things, because you know the
House -- the leadership puts on the floor whatever it wants and it blocks
whatever it doesn`t and the Senate can`t do anything.

But I also think the president didn`t start making this case until
about a month ago. He`s really kind of taken a different tact and started
to be much more forceful. It may be a little late to get anything through
this Congress.

MATTHEWS: I think we spend too much time decking around the debt,
and I know he had to.

DIONNE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And I know we had to. It was a job he had to do. But,
boy, it didn`t sell anybody.

Thank you, E.J. Dionne. I think the country lost a lot in that
terrible logjam over the debt ceiling.

Anyway, great column. Of course, E.J. Dionne with the post.

Up next, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who`s a supporter of Rick Perry
still, has called Mormonism a cult -- that`s a kind word from him, I`m
sarcastic. And now, he`s found similar things to say about the Roman
Catholic Church, calls it a fake church. I guess, he`s deciding on all
these things.

We`ll have a little conversation about him coming up in a couple of
minutes. Here he is coming up on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Here we go. Now again more tricks. A Republican lawmaker
in Wisconsin wants to split up the state`s 10 electoral votes by
congressional district, this undercutting -- thereby undercutting President
Obama`s advantage in the Democrat-leaning state. The proposal is similar
to the one we saw in Pennsylvania, whereby President Obama would only win
electoral votes from the congressional districts he wins. And the end
result could be a Republican candidate winning a lion`s share of electoral
votes in Wisconsin, despite losing popular vote in that state.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT JEFFRESS, PASTOR: Rick Perry`s a Christian. He`s an
evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney`s a good,
moral person, but he`s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It
has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity. So,
it`s a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re back.

That was Pastor Robert Jeffress and his attack on Mormonism, just
after he introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit here in
Washington last Friday.

And it looks like Jeffress may have to answer for this attack on
Catholicism last year. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JEFFRESS: Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn`t
come from God`s word. It comes from this cult-like, pagan religion. You
say, "Pastor, how can you say such a thing? That is such an indictment of
the Catholic Church. After all, the Catholic Church talks about God and
the Bible and Jesus and the blood of Christ and salvation!" Isn`t that the
genius of Satan?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, the genius of Satan, the Catholic Church. Rick Perry
ended up distancing himself from Jeffress` comments on Mormonism, but will
Perry now have to cut ties with Jeffress over the Catholic comments?

Bill Donohue is head of the Catholic League and he is calling Perry
to make a break with the pastor.

Your thoughts about these two -- it seems like the word "cult" comes
to mind quickly with this guy to his lips.

WILLIAM DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, the word "cult," obviously,
bespeaks a certain ignorance on the part of Jeffress which maybe corrected
through education. But when he basically says the Catholic Church is
infected by Satan, that`s not something you`re going to affect by
education. That`s a deep-seated visceral bigotry, and it has to be
renounced by Rick Perry.

I`m making it very clear -- I don`t hold Perry accountable for these
remarks. In fact, I was told on a good trusted source today, my friend
Tony Perkins, who`s an imminently decent evangelical, that Perry had no
knowledge of this, nor would he countenance this. So I want to make that
separation. On the other hand, what Jeffress said is despicable and Perry,
I think, for his own good, ethically speaking, he should say "I want
nothing to do with this guy again."

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s look at a couple of things and sort of
educating people as you`re trying to do now. We haven`t been able to get
polling on whether or not the evangelicals considered the Catholic faith
part of Christianity or not.

But the Pew Research Center has found the following: 76 percent of
evangelical protestant leaders view Catholicism`s religious traditions in a
favorable light. Only 24 percent view Catholics unfavorably. That`s a
pretty healthy, 76 percent.

So, in terms of the attitudes of even the most fundamentalist
preachers out there, they don`t have a negative attitude toward the
Catholic Church.

So whether the word "cult" has made its rounds or not among that
community or not, it is not a nasty attitude, like I think their attitude
is towards Mormonism. But I`m going to get to those numbers.

Your thought about that, Bill?

DONOHUE: I think that -- look, you`re a Catholic. And we`re both
Catholics. We grew up in a time when there was much more open bigotry
coming from some Protestant circles. I think tremendous progress has been
made, certainly I`ve seen over the last 20 years.

I was with Tony Perkins, and Don Wildmon and Dr. Richard Land and
other evangelicals last week in Washington, D.C. -- nothing like this came
out of their because they`re not no more bigoted than you and I are. But
there`s still progress that has to be made.

For some reason, there are still some people, I`m sure we have them
in the Catholic community, too, who exercise a kind of bigotry toward
others. It has to be condemned, no matter who says it -- but particularly
in a presidential campaign.

MATTHEWS: Here`s where you have an interesting point here.
According to LifeWay Research, which falls under the Southern Baptist
Convention, Protestant pastors do not hold favorable views of Mormonism.
The poll shows that 75 percent of Protestant pastors do not consider
Mormons to be Christians, and the number increases among evangelical
pastors to 82 percent.

So, here`s the conundrum here, Bill, that among the pastors
themselves, 82 percent, four out of five, don`t consider Mormonism to be
Christian. So, when you have Jeffress out there, of course, the words like
"cult" are obviously meant to be nasty -- but what do you make of their
ideological or theological belief that Mormons are just not Christians.
Are they right to say that?

DONOHUE: I`ll be honest with you, that doesn`t bother me. I mean,
people who are Buddhists, and Hindu and Islam, we all have different
religions. We should respect the right of other people to practice it.

What bothers me is when you get into disparaging language.

MATTHEWS: Exactly.

DONOHUE: That`s what bothers me. Not the theological differences.
God bless them.

MATTHEWS: And I think in parlance in our country, the word "cult,"
we think of Manson.

DONOHUE: Right.

MATTHEWS: So, let`s remember, we start using words like that in
public, we better be careful.

Thank you so much, Bill.

DONOHUE: Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS: On this one, we agree.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with why I think a person`s religion
can`t predict their politics or how good a leader they`re going to be. And
this is common sense in this country.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" with this: Religion. There`s a pride to
it, along with the faith that comes with being born to a faith comes a
strong stubborn desire to defend it, because what you`re doing in most
cases is defending the beliefs of your parents and grandparents, the very
roots of your own existence. So, don`t make fun of someone`s religion,
don`t do it because it is a direct affront as well as a direct assault.
Someone who speaks badly or speaks down on their religion you are brought
up in, and there`s either going to be trouble or sadness or both, because
it hurts.

We Americans take a wonderful view of religion as a country. Our
Constitution says there can be no religious test for public office, none,
nada. You can`t ask much less, demand an answer to the question. You
can`t even ask the question.

People in this country are entitled to believe what they will about
the existence and nature of the universe in which we are all born and live
our lives.

So, this is the heart of it. It`s not the value of a particular
religion. We`re unlikely to resolve that biggest of all questions. It`s a
pride of a person born into one. More than good manners says don`t make an
issue of it.

Mitt Romney should or should not be president of the United States
starting January 20th of 2013. His religion should have nothing to do with
that decision. Speculate all you wish about Mormonism.

I got my start in politics because of a Mormon. Wayne Owens of Utah
gave me my first job in Washington. I have no idea what he believed about
God. What I know is that he was a deeply committed supporter of Bobby
Kennedy, and a positive American politician, who was elected U.S.
congressman from Utah as a Democrat and died working for peace in the
Middle East.

I can say the same of Senator Frank Moss of Utah, for whom I worked
in my first job in the Senate and whose personal endorsement won me my job
working for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, which led for me working in
the White House. What a fine, good man he was. In all the years I knew
him, I found him to be a solid liberal.

I can say the same with the great Morris Udall, who ran for
president. And Harry Reid, who is the Democratic leader in the Senate --
and any number of other good Mormons who were also good Democrats, along
with many more who are conservative Republicans.

I bring this all up to make a simple, practical point: there are good
reasons to vote for or again Mitt Romney for president. His religion is
neither, because it is, in my experience, hardly a guide to his politics.
I have enough Mormon to know that -- know enough Mormons to know that. And
more importantly, I`ve known enough people in my life of a variety of
faiths to know enough to -- of each faith to know that religion is a
useless predictor of their views, or to their worth as leaders, which this
country sorely needs.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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