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updated 11/1/2011 11:30:19 AM ET 2011-11-01T15:30:19

Guests: David Corn, Hampton Pearson, John Heilemann, Sam Stein, Susan Milligan, Jonathan Martin, Nia-
Malika Henderson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The rain on Cain`s parade.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off
tonight: Cain in pain. It`s the political explosion of the day, the news
first reported by Politico that Herman Cain was accused of sexual
harassment when he headed the National Restaurant Association and that cash
payments were reached with two women. In his defense, Cain today said he
was accused by one woman but that the accusation was false.

How will this story affect Cain`s dramatic lead in the polls? Will it
hurt him, or will his supporters chalk it up to a predictable attack by the
political and media establishment?

And tomorrow`s the publication date for my big new book, "Jack
Kennedy: Elusive Hero," which provides a new, intimate portrait of the 35th
president. How did a rich man`s son grow to the leader who got us through
the Cuban missile crisis, a look at the troublemaker in school, the young
man who challenged his father on World War II, who saved his crew members
in the South Pacific, and went on to inspire a country even now. There`s a
lot President Obama can learn from Jack Kennedy.

We start with the latest on Herman Cain. Jonathan Martin is chief
political correspondent for Politico, and Nia-Malika Henderson is a
political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Let`s show us now what we`ve heard latest. NBC has confirmed that one
woman received a settlement from the National Restaurant Association after
complaining about inappropriate sexual conduct by Herman Cain. NBC News is
not disclosing the name of the woman, nor characterizing who she is.

Today Herman Cain acknowledged he had been accused of sexual
harassment but said the charges were not true. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In all of my over 40
years of business experience running businesses and corporations, I have
never sexually harassed anyone. While at the restaurant association, I was
accused of sexual harassment -- falsely accused, I might add. I was
falsely accused of sexual harassment.

And when the charges were brought, as the leader of the organization,
I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and my human resource
officer to deal with the situation. As far as a settlement -- I am unaware
of any sort of settlement. I hope it wasn`t for much because I didn`t do
anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Jonathan Martin. J-Mar, congratulations
on breaking this story. Of what we just heard from Mr. Cain, what can you
report is not accurate?

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO.COM: Well, Mr. Cain himself has just
contradicted his own statement. In an interview that`s going to be on Fox
tonight, Mr. Cain says he believes that the one woman got about three
months` salary as part of this departure deal.

You just saw him there say at the National Press Club he`s not aware
of any settlement but he hopes it wasn`t for much. Literally minutes after
doing that midday National Press Club, he tapes an interview for tonight
with Greta Van Susteren saying that the one woman got three months` salary.
So he is not keeping his story straight on the response.

MATTHEWS: Why?

MARTIN: And further -- go ahead.

MATTHEWS: Yes, clearly, he has had a hard time. Why do you believe
it`s taken him all this time? Apparently, someone gave him the heads-up
that this story was about to break, and even in those 10 days, he didn`t
seem to be prepared for you. Let`s take a look at your interview earlier
today -- was it earlier today, Jonathan?

MARTIN: Yesterday.

MATTHEWS: When you confronted him with the charges in the story.

MARTIN: Sunday.

MATTHEWS: Sunday. Here he is. In your Politico story yesterday, you
wrote that the campaign knew about your reporting for 10 days...

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... yet Mr. Cain didn`t seem to be prepared when you
confronted him just yesterday in Washington. Let`s watch that scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: I`m not going to comment about two people that you won`t tell
me who they are, OK? I`m not going to -- I`m not going to -- I`m not going
to comment on that.

MARTIN: Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment? Have you?
Have you, sir? Please answer yes or no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the last question. Thanks.

MARTIN: Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, can you report about the core of this story,
which is what may have been he was accused of?

MARTIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: What was his infraction? What did he do that most
people...

MARTIN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: ... watching right now would think was either deeply wrong,
troubling, or whatever?

MARTIN: Sure. Well, two women complained about what they deemed to
be inappropriate behavior towards them, physical contact and also language
that they found to be offensive and embarrassing, so much so that they went
to their superiors and they went to colleagues to complain about the
treatment. And subsequently, both of them got five-figure cash payouts,
and nondisclosure settlements so that they would not be able to talk about
what actually happened.

One of the women, Chris, Mr. Cain invited to his hotel suite during an
event that was actually related to the organization. So it was those kinds
of gestures. It was physical contact.

MATTHEWS: Right.

MARTIN: It was statements that were just making them feel
uncomfortable...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: ... suggesting...

MATTHEWS: But how far did it go? Can you report how far it went --
obviously inappropriate, from everything you`ve said...

MARTIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and certainly has no place in the workplace.

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But I`m asking you about this question. Was it what we
consider really aggressive harassment, like, I want to sleep with you, you
work for me, you better do it...

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... something of that extraordinary nature? Was it
something like that?

MARTIN: Well, I think -- it was inappropriate language, and also
physical contact, too.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARTIN: You know...

MATTHEWS: But going to the room, certainly, and reporting that he
asked her to go...

MARTIN: Yes, inviting...

MATTHEWS: ... that suggests...

MARTIN: ... somebody to your hotel suite is pretty blatant. So there
is that, and also physical contact that made these women feel
uncomfortable...

MATTHEWS: Sure, I`ve got you.

MARTIN: ... in the workplace.

MATTHEWS: Do you know whether -- just to narrow it down for our
viewers who are catching up to this story...

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... and making a character judgment, some of them, about
this man, do you know whether that invitation to go to his room was, in
fact, a sexual proposition? Do you know that, or do you think it would
look like one to the woman involved, let`s put it that way? Did she take
it that way?

MARTIN: Our sources tell us that the woman not only took it that
way...

MATTHEWS: OK.

MARTIN: ... but took it that way and then went and complained about
the matter to a board member at the organization because she was so -- so
hurt by the matter and was so scared by the matter...

MATTHEWS: OK. Sounds right to me.

MARTIN: ... that she went to her superiors.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is serious business, Nia-Malika Henderson of
"The Washington Post." Is this going to be one of those stories that takes
down a candidate because it looks like predatory behavior in the workplace
over someone who reports to you?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, it looks like there`s
more to come out of -- out of this day. It looked like he was ending his
day on a song at the National Press Club, and now he`s done this complete
reversal that we`ll hear more about on Fox News tonight.

I think you are hearing some pushback from conservatives, saying
basically, that this is another example of the liberal press trying to
bring down a black conservative. They`re name-dropping Clarence Thomas and
drawing comparisons to that.

But it does seem like he has stumbled into a real big mess here
primarily because there`s that clear flip-flop, there`s that clear reversal
from earlier in the day...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HENDERSON: ... when he said he had no idea of this settlement, which
I think to some people`s ears, did strike them as odd because there seemed
to be an acknowledgement that the complaints were made. And then to kind
of say he had no idea that a settlement was made when it was made I think
struck people as odd. And so now we have him here, clearly contradicting
himself...

MATTHEWS: Right. Well...

HENDERSON: ... from earlier today.

MATTHEWS: ... he`s definitely developing this story as he goes along.
This is called -- what`s it called? Rolling disclosure, we call it in our
business, right, J -- Jonathan, J-Mar? This is when you put out
information like a leaky faucet and it looks worse for you all the time,
right?

MARTIN: Well, look, Chris, he had 10 days to respond to this story.
His campaign was made aware of our reporting on Thursday, October 20th.
They did not respond until the following week on Monday. We were not
satisfied with the nature of their response. We wanted to make sure Mr.
Cain himself -- not his staff, Mr. Cain himself -- had a chance to respond
to these very serious questions.

So I asked him directly, outside of CBS News yesterday morning, Have
you, sir, ever been accused of sexual harassment in your life? I gave him
four chances to answer that very straightforward question. He didn`t do
it. And not until today did he finally admit that, yes, he was accused of
sexual harassment.

He denied it and said that...

MATTHEWS: OK.

MARTIN: ... there was one charge. A half a dozen sources tell us
that there were at least two female employees who complained about their
treatment...

MATTHEWS: OK.

MARTIN: ... by Mr. Cain.

MATTHEWS: Nia, I want to ask you, is anybody out there, can you tell
me, pushing this story with a partisan agenda, anybody that`s come by,
making calls to "The Post" or anyone else that you`ve come across? I`m
trying to figure the motive. It would seem to be -- well, I don`t want to
speculate because I always speculate in my mind, but I don`t want to do it
here, as to who would gain from the fall of Herman Cain.

I don`t think the liberals would be after him at this point. He
doesn`t look like the nominee. But who would be after him would be a
fellow conservative who`s competing with him to go on against Mitt Romney.
But that doesn`t tell you who did it, it simply gives you a possible motive
for someone.

HENDERSON: Yes, and you heard Herman Cain, for instance,today call it
a witch hunt, and obviously, conservatives are blaming it on the liberal
media. But I will say, I think there have been rumors about this swirling
around his campaign...

MARTIN: Right.

HENDERSON: ... swirling around press organizations. And you know,
kudos to you, J-Mar, for breaking this thing. So yes, there had -- there
had been...

MATTHEWS: You mean rumors of this particular nature, the harassment
issue.

HENDERSON: Yes, this particular -- this particular incident,
specifically, that J-Mar so masterfully reported on in Politico.

MATTHEWS: OK.

HENDERSON: My ex-colleague. Hats off to you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HENDERSON: So yes, I think -- but no smoking gun because, of course,
you know, in campaign, you obviously hear from rival campaigns, you know,
touting, you know, details about the other campaign. But I will say that I
hadn`t -- I hadn`t experienced that, but there had been rumors just around
Washington about this and around this campaign.

MATTHEWS: So Jonathan, just to make it official, doing my job, you`re
not going to tell me who the source is.

MARTIN: I am not going to talk about my source.

MATTHEWS: OK, now we know. At the National Press Club today, he
responded, Mr. Cain did, to a question about whether he thinks another
campaign leaked the information to the press. Let`s listen to Mr. Cain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: I told you this bull`s-eye on my back has gotten bigger.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: I have no idea. We have no idea the source of this witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s either a bull`s-eye on your back or it`s a witch
hunt. I don`t think it can be both.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Jonathan, I think he`s got his historic references mixed
up. But my question to you is...

MARTIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: This is a hard one -- as an analyst, do what you know about
this case look to be disqualifying? In other words, gets to character?

MARTIN: I think the nature of the charges against him are very
serious. He`s got to answer more questions about what actually happened
here. And also, he`s got to try and get his story straight. He said
midday today that he didn`t know about any settlements at all, and then,
again, a few hours later, even less than that, he`s taping an interview for
tonight and saying, yes, it was a settlement for about three months`
salary.

MATTHEWS: Yes, rolling disclosure. Rolling disclosure. It always
looks bad.

MARTIN: So you know...

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you...

MARTIN: ... the more he talks, obviously, he`s raising more
questions, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know the old rule of journalism. I always advise
people, if it looks better for the politician -- I mean, if it`s better
than it looks, they`ll tell you. He has to tell us if it looks better --
if it`s better than it looks.

Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Martin. Congratulations on the scoop, I
guess. And Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you for congratulating him for his
scoop.

MARTIN: Thanks, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Coming up, my new book, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," is
out tomorrow. That`s the pub date -- the story of a president who inspired
a country. What can President Obama learn from Jack Kennedy? That`s
coming up next.

you`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama`s adding prescription drugs policy to his
growing list of executive actions. It`s all part of his new slogan, You
can`t wait -- We can`t wait -- as the president takes more executive
actions, rather than waiting for Congress to approve components of his jobs
bill.

Today he signed a new order aimed at preventing potential prescription
drug shortages, to speed the application review process to produce
medications, and alert the Justice Department about possible price gouging.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. My new book, "Jack Kennedy:
Elusive Hero," debuts tomorrow. And over the past few years, I went back
to try and answer the question, What was he really like? And what I found
was a self-made Jack Kennedy, someone who was curious about the world and
knew that the first step in leading was to ask Americans to follow him.

Well, we`re turning the tables tonight. And with me tonight are two
great political thinkers in the MSNBC family, the Huffington Post`s the
great Howard Fineman and Massachusetts`s own Mike Barnicle, who`s covered
and grown up with the Kennedys over the years.

Gentlemen, you`re going to be asking me the questions about Jack
Kennedy. Howard, you start.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
OK, Chris. Let`s play HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: I know that wasn`t convincing. But the first thing that
occurred to me is that there have been a lot of books written about Jack
Kennedy. I, in fact, was inspired when I was a little kid to get into the
business I`m in because of reading "Making of the President" in 1960 about
Jack Kennedy and that race.

Why now? Why another book? Why were you so interested in it,
especially because you`d written one in the past about Kennedy and Nixon?
Why this book now?

MATTHEWS: I wanted to find out whether he was as good as we thought
he was back in the `60s before he was killed. I wanted to know if he was
the genuine article. And so I had a lot of access to people through oral
histories and personal relations and documents to go back to and find out
what he was like in high school at Choate, what he was like in the Navy,
what he was like in that early going politically, how he learned to be Jack
Kennedy.

And what I found out was pretty amazing. I found out where "Ask not"
came from. It came from something he heard from his headmaster about, Ask
not what your alma mater can do for you but what you can do for her. And I
got the exact notes from the headmaster`s sermons up there.

I also went back and found out what he was like in school. He was a
troublemaker, a kid who was an Irish-American, who didn`t like the WASPy
headmaster who took a shot at the Irish, calling them "muckers," and he
went out and formed a group called the Muckers. So he was an early leader.

What really grabbed me and will grab anybody who reads these stories
was his courage in the war. And Mike Barnicle knows it and you know these
stories. But I went into depth. Imagine, he`s carrying a guy on his back,
and he`s got a badly injured back and had grown up with a bad back,
carrying this guy on his back for four hours through the Pacific Ocean,
through Japanese-held waters, all the time pulling the guy`s life jacket in
his teeth.

He saved the lives of 10 of his crewmen. Two of them were really in
bad shape. He had to go out and talk them into not giving up. It`s right
out of a movie. He is a true hero, a chillingly, amazingly gutsy hero.
And that`s how it all started.

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chris, I have a -- I have a
bunch of questions, but I want to talk to you tonight about something that
absolutely jumped off the page to me. And it has to do with an appearance
that then Senator Kennedy made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before the
convention in 1960, long before the election in 1960.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BARNICLE: And I ask you this in light of today...

MATTHEWS: Right.

BARNICLE: ... when so many people, Republican and Democrat, seem to
be wallowing in a frustration about the future of this country...

MATTHEWS: Right.

BARNICLE: ... and about the strength of our political leaders,
including President Obama.

And the question is this. Senator Kennedy is at the podium and he`s
being introduced by the then governor of Pennsylvania, David Lawrence, a
powerful figure. And in his introduction, in which Senator Kennedy expects
it to be glowing and laudatory and an endorsement of his candidacy for
president, Lawrence sort of slaps the young Bay State senator around.

John F. Kennedy stands up, addresses the critiques that David Lawrence
raised, and then proceeds to turn and sort of verbally pummel David
Lawrence in front of Lawrence`s own audience.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BARNICLE: My question to you is, can you see Barack Obama having the
strength to do that today?

MATTHEWS: Well, he better learn. Let me tell you, the best part of
my book in terms of research, besides all the archival work, was getting 64
audiotapes that nobody`s ever had before of Kenny O`Donnell describing such
scenes at each stage of his political life.

Jack Kennedy played hardball. He sent Bobby in the back room to do
it, to beat up these governors who were giving him a hard time. And it`s
amazing how he did it, with Mike DiSalle and David Lawrence and people like
Pat Brown and Governor Taws (ph). They came out of that room endorsing
him. He had a strong brother -- there he is in the picture -- who was
willing to do the tough work, the ruthless work, and Jack kept his hands
clean. But he got the job done.

In that case -- here was David Lawrence. Jack Kennedy had won the
Democratic primary in Pennsylvania that spring, 70-plus percent. He had
walked away with it with a write-in campaign. Pennsylvania wanted him.
The Democrats wanted him.

And here`s old David Lawrence, the first Catholic governor, nervous
about a fellow Catholic being the candidate, and he`s holding back, acting
like Jack hadn`t won the primary. Well, Jack walked up on the stage, as
you said, told those delegates, who were going to delegates, if you don`t
give this nomination to me because I`m Catholic, this Democratic Party is
finished and you guys are finished.

Lawrence goes off the stage practically finished and Jack Kennedy won
the Pennsylvania delegation. Sometimes you have got to take the fight to
the enemy to their face. And I`m telling you, that`s a lesson. You have
got to go after the bad guys.

FINEMAN: Chris, that`s probably one lesson that I know you think that
President Obama needs to learn. He has to be willing to make enemies. He
has to be willing to do it in public.

But as I read through the book, I thought of the promise of Barack
Obama as president, and the Kennedy-esque -- Barack Obama was compared to
both Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy, tremendous burdens to be sure, of
expectations, but what can Barack Obama do now at this rather late date?

What can he read in your book that he needs to follow and try to
follow before it`s too late?

MATTHEWS: Well, the most important thing is -- and I don`t do this
with disrespect for this man, who I respect a lot -- he seems to think that
the presidency is a solo act. I have never seen a president who doesn`t
have allies, who doesn`t have confederates.

Where are the people coming on this show, coming on the Sunday
programs like "Meet the Press" and bashing the hell out of the other side?
Where are his Cabinet members? Are they Hatch Act? What`s the matter with
these people? Where`s Sebelius? Where`s Vilsack? Where`s any of them?

Madeleine Albright was a better trooper for Bill Clinton when he was
in trouble with Monica than any of these people are. How come these
senators come on like Bernie Sanders like he has his own political party?
OK, he`s a socialist, but can`t he act like a Democrat? Can`t he act like
Obama`s ally? How come these guys on the show? We have them all over the
place.

They all come on television and act like they`re running in their own
campaigns. They should be his confederates, they should be his allies, and
they should take some punches for him and deliver some punches for this
guy. He ought to just say, are you a Democrat? Then you`re in my party.

Now, part of it`s his fault. He ought to have them over to dinner at
night, he ought to sit around, have a few drinks them with them. He ought
to play cards. He ought to nurture them. But he better make some allies,
or this guy is going down this road next year all alone.

As Tip O`Neill once said to a congressman, I don`t need you when I`m
right. I need you when I`m not popular. I need you now.

And I don`t understand why he doesn`t lay down the law.

Michael, you understand this politics. Where are the confederates?
Where`s the Obama party? Jack Kennedy had something called the Kennedy
party.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s talk about that, I mean, you know, that
element that Howard threw on the table and that you just knocked out of the
park. And it is the element of, he ought to have these guys down the White
House, he ought to play cards with them, he ought to have a drink with
them.

MATTHEWS: Like them. If you don`t like them, they`re not going to
like you.

O`DONNELL: Well, that`s the question. Is he as -- is Barack Obama as
good at politics as we initially thought? Because he certainly, after this
point in time, is certainly not John F. Kennedy, who schmoozed these guys.

MATTHEWS: I know.

O`DONNELL: These guys, in your book, they liked Jack Kennedy. You
get the sense that a lot of Democratic reps and senators, they admire the
president, as we all admire the president, as we all ought to, but they
don`t really like him.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know what happened to Jack Kennedy? He got beaten for
the vice presidential nomination in `56 and he talked to the people around
and said, now I`m going to be a total politician, not just some popular guy
that people vote for. I`m going to be a guy that makes other politicians
do what I want them to do, because he had that nomination taken away from
him because he was Catholic in `56.

At the last minute, Rayburn and those guyed screwed him. So he said,
next time around, I`m going to have the power over those guys. And so he
went out in the country and he got 30,000 people supporting him for the
convention. He knew half the delegates personally when he got there,
personally.

You have got to go out and put the rope around these other
politicians. You have got to make them do what they don`t want to do. You
can woo some of them. You have got to use the stick with the rest of them.
And I`m telling you, it`s all about domination over other politicians.

When I look at somebody who is sort of a middleweight politically --
I`m not knocking him, but Eric Cantor is not a heavyweight yet. For this
president to be pushed around by him, he gets pushed around by Bibi
Netanyahu. Stop it. Stop it.

We`re the ones giving the $3 billion a year to Israel. You shouldn`t
be acting like you`re giving it to us. I`m sorry. He`s got to get tough
with our allies in the world, good allies like Israel, and start acting
like we`re the big guys. You know, be a little tougher about this.
Anyway, that`s my thought. Just a thought. It`s easier to be a pundit.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Chris, it`s partly because of what you bring to the story in
terms of your own knowledge of politics, I`m sure, but what I -- one of the
things I took from your book, as you have been saying, is just how
thoroughly steeped in the world of politics Jack Kennedy actually was.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: On the outside, we saw the cool customer and so on, but you
document how from an early age, he was deeply involved in studying and
trying to understand history and politics.

I`m not sure Barack Obama`s ever going to be that. But I wanted to
flip around and ask...

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s a lot more like you and me than you would
think.

And, Mike, we`re kids I`m sure that started reading about Churchill
and people, heroes like that when we were very young. He had read
Churchill`s history of World War I by the age of 14. He read "The New York
Times" every day in high school.

FINEMAN: Well, but let me ask you something else entirely different.

Having studied Jack Kennedy, and you have talked about all the things
he brought as a leader and his bravery, physical and political, what were
his shortcomings as a political leader? And there must have been some.
And I`m wondering, also, what a second term might have been like had he
been able to have one.

MATTHEWS: He was fighting to the end, before he was killed in
November of `63, trying to twist the arms of the guys on the Rules
Committee to get civil rights through. I have got stuff in the book about
him working the Judiciary Committee, and he did that well with the help of
Dick Daley, boss Daley, in Chicago. He was really squeezing them.

But he had the biggest, hardest time with the Dixiecrats. He couldn`t
move them on issues like even tax cuts. He had a problem dealing with
Congress. And that`s where I sympathize with Obama, President Obama. You
can be the right guy, you can be the good guy, the tough guy, but these
other guys can stand in your way if you`re the best in the business.

It took his assassination -- let`s be honest -- we all know this -- to
get the civil rights bill through, because of the horror and the grieving
of this country afterwards. And Johnson was able to use that to get civil
rights through in `64.

Jack had the guts to bring it up and say, I`m for it, but even he
couldn`t get it through until horror struck this country in his
assassination. So, he wasn`t a superman, but, boy, did he try and did he
have the right values? Yes. Yes, he did.

O`DONNELL: You know, one other element that really struck me in the
book, Chris -- and I`m sure it probably struck Howard as well -- we all
know that times are drastically different today than they were in 1960.

But President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy`s friendship with
journalists, with Ben Bradlee...

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: ... with Charlie Bartlett, with Teddy White, there was a
common mutual respect and affection back and forth. He was not afraid of
them and let them into his life.

And we all understand the differences between coverage then and now.
But it struck me that that does not exist today.

MATTHEWS: And I don`t quite understand that. You know, we don`t have
to be coddled, but there is a common interest in our country that the
commentators and journalists have in common with the president, which is we
all cover the same areas on both sides of the political and the
journalistic fence, and we all care about the country and there should be a
little more respect. But that`s up to him.

I think he makes a mistake if he doesn`t recognize the role we play.
And if he thinks he`s superior to that role, he`s right, but he also shares
that role.

Anyway, thank you, gentlemen.

I want to say to the people who watch me every night all these years,
this is a book I put my heart into. I hope you read it. I hope you get a
ahold of me and grab me somewhere at an airport and tell me what you think
of it.

I`m telling you, if you lived through this period, it will convince
you, you were right about Kennedy the first time. If you`re a daughter or
a son of somebody who lived through it, you are going to understand your
parents now. And if you`re really young today, it will teach you what
leadership is. And I think we need to know that.

My book, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," I`m asking you, go out and buy
it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: We will be right back.

I`m asking.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Up next: Rick Perry is down in the polls, so now he`s
trying a new tactic: stand-up comedy. The trouble is, it`s not clear that
Perry meant to be funny, and that`s a problem.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Hampton Pearson with your
CNBC "Market Wrap."

All tricks and no treats for the bulls today, the Dow Jones
industrials plunging 276 points, the S&P 500 tumbling 31, the Nasdaq giving
up 52 points. A pretty lousy way to end what was otherwise a great month.
All the major averages put up double-digit percentage gains. It was the
Dow`s best month since 2002, the S&P`s best since 1991.

Former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine`s bid to revive his struggling
investment firm came to an end today. MF Global Finance filed for
bankruptcy protection after talks to sell it fell apart.

Health insurer Humana surged after delivering better-than-expected
profits and an improved outlook. Sony slumped on word it`s looking to
split its struggling TV unit into three separate divisions. And the dollar
hit a three-month high against the yen as the Bank of Japan stepped in with
another attempt to weaken that currency.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Rick Perry`s poll numbers have dropped precipitously over the past
month, largely as a result of his shaky debate performances. But when it
comes to damaging moments, nothing may match Perry`s appearance in
Manchester, New Hampshire, this past Friday night.

Just take a look at what has been described as a bizarre and unusual
speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is such a cool
state. I mean, come on, live free or die?

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: It`s like live free or death, victory or death, bring it.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: The Texas rangers after 50 years are going to win a World
Series. Oops.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: I grew up on a farm. I grew up -- I grew up on a farm. If
they print any more money over there in Washington, that gold`s going to be
good.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: Or that, 20 percent flat tax. Put it on there, take your
deductions off, send it in.

That little plan that I just shared with you doesn`t force the Granite
State to expand your tax footprint, if you know what I mean, like 9 percent
expansion.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: I love Herman. Is he the best?

Today has been awesome, girl.

(APPLAUSE)

PERRY: This has really been a great day.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, that`s the first time I saw that baby. That`s
-- after that over-the-top performance, is this guy in big trouble?

John Heilemann is an expert at such things, national affairs editor
for "New York" magazine. And David Corn can`t wait to give us his opinion.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He`s MSNBC`s analyst of course and D.C. bureau chief for
"Mother Jones."

I have got to start with John, who is here.

John, I don`t know how I would describe that.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK": Well, I think it`s fair to say that the
people in the audience did not realize they were going to get to see Will
Ferrell performing an imitation of Rick Perry performing an imitation of
George W. Bush.

I would have been kind of amazed to see that performance.

MATTHEWS: Well, what was it? It was like a -- well, I don`t want to
get into it. It was so whimsical.

HEILEMANN: Goofy.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: Goofy. And I think if you were going to try to put the
most positive spin on it, you would say he has been flat and wooden and
sort of dead up until now, and he`s now trying to revivify himself in a
folksy, loose, charming way. That`s the only -- that`s the most positive
spin you could put on it.

But I think if you`re sitting in Boston right now and you`re in the
Romney campaign, you look at that and you say, he`s a clown.

MATTHEWS: No. Yes. Well, I don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, I don`t know where to begin here, David Corn.

Is this the behavior at the office Christmas party two months ahead?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well...

MATTHEWS: I don`t know -- the guy with the lamp shade on his head who
thinks he`s funny. I don`t know. What is it?

CORN: Well, I have to say he looked pretty good to me, but then I was
high when I was watching.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Be careful.

CORN: No, not really.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: People take these things literally, my friend.

(LAUGHTER)

HEILEMANN: I don`t think he was kidding at all.

CORN: But he did -- but he did make me think of Spicoli, the
character from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," when he said, you know, hey,
it`s cool, dude, and all this stuff.

But I think there may be an explanation here that you almost touched
on there, John, and that is, he`s been so sleepy in a lot of these debates.
This looked to me like they gave him like 20 cups of coffee before he went
on, and said, go have fun, Governor.

MATTHEWS: Coffee?

CORN: But would you want a fellow like -- would you want a goofy
fellow with his finger on the nuclear button? I think people in the crowd
were kind of -- didn`t know -- were kind of wondering what to make of this
performance.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s like what you see at a wedding, where the
guy gets up there and stands up there and he`s not quite ready for prime
time.

And I don`t want to be too tough. But I do think it was bizarre.
Let`s take a look. The Perry camp gave the following quote as an
explanation for Friday`s speech.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: They gave it to The Huffington Post -- quote -- "The
governor is passionate about the issues he talks about."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure that was...

CORN: You can`t even read with it with a straight face.

MATTHEWS: I think the British say, what is it, tired and irritated
when somebody puts on a performance like that.

HEILEMANN: Like I say, I do think there`s some overcompensation going
on.

I mean, look, they I think increasingly -- look, he has -- he`s the
only candidate in the race who has the financial resources to compete with
Mitt Romney. That`s number one.

CORN: Right.

HEILEMANN: Number two, he traditionally -- before he became a
presidential candidate, the thing that everyone said about him was that he
had tremendous retail skills. He connected with human beings in a way that
Mitt Romney didn`t.

I feel like they feel that he has become this other Rick Perry, and
they`re trying to get him back there somehow. And so there`s an
overcompensation that went on here, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, I got to tell you, I`m in this business trying to
figure out the tone, of how to set it for this program some nights.

And I do want -- sometimes I get a little giddy and I have too much
fun. The other nights, I get too serious. It is a matter of tone.

Let`s take a look at his latest ads. His ads have been dynamite. I
mean, that`s his strength. Let`s take a look at the ad that`s set to run
in Iowa, the Perry ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you`re looking
for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already
have that. And he`s destroying our economy.

I`m a doer, not a talker. In Texas, we created 40 percent of the new
jobs in the entire country since June of 2009. And we cut a record $15
billion from our state budget. Now, they say we can`t do that in
Washington. Well, they`re wrong and they need to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That -- I`m sorry, as a regular person, forget the ideas
involved, I like that guy. Corn?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Well, he`s made good campaign ads before.
And in fact, in Texas, he`s known for skipping out debates, but coming up
with killer ads, usually negative ads, but that are very effective.

And so, as John mentioned, he`ll have lots of money. He can still,
you know --

MATTHEWS: Why can`t he do that on stage? Is he like a movie star
that can`t do live theater?

CORN: He doesn`t have the talent set to be that person. I don`t
know how many takes did that commercial take?

MATTHEWS: I don`t want know.

CORN: Forty, 45, 47? I mean, he can`t -- he`s had plenty of chances
now on the national stage to be impressive as a person, as a real person,
and he hasn`t been able to do that yet.

MATTHEWS: The funny thing is that Mr. Romney, who can be, I`ve
always said, looks like one of the characters in the hall of the
presidents, you know, down in Disney World.

JOHN HEILEMANN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Audio-Animatronics.

MATTHEWS: But yet in the debate, he comes across as a quite natural
debate. He seems like he belongs there. This guy always has those weird
kind of collars, he wears -- he looks like he`s going to disappear in his
collar. He looks like he`s wearing the wrong clothes.

There he is wearing clothes he looks totally comfortable in. Not
here. But, you know, we`ll see. I don`t think he`s really -- I don`t
think doing well. He`s 4 percent in Iowa, and he can`t get much lower with
the margin of error.

John, I don`t understand how he can run such a terrible campaign and
such great TV ads. Maybe this will be the end of TV ads or whatever.

Thank you, John Heilemann, I think you were very discreet in your
discussion of his performance there. By the way, (INAUDIBLE) later, we
could really thank.

David Corn, thank you.

Up next, President Obama ran on hope and change in 2008. Something
that`s not likely to work in 2012, is it? Well, getting ready to go
negative, is he? We`ll see.

He is definitely getting personal and it looks like negative on
people like Romney. They`ve already started to sharpen their knives,

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you can set your DVR right now. The committee that
sponsors presidential debates has chosen the sites for next year`s debates.
The University of Denver out in Denver, Colorado. Hofstra University in
Hempstead, New York. That`s on the island here. Lynn University in Boca
Raton, Florida.

All debates will take place next October, all in one month. And one
vice presidential debate will take place at Center College in Danville,
Kentucky.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")

DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR OBAMA ADVISER: I`d make two points about him.
One is he has no core. Issue after issue after issue, he`s moved all over
the place. And I can tell you one thing working a few steps down from the
president, what you need in that office is conviction. You need to have a
true compass. And you`ve got to be willing to make tough calls.

And you get the sense with Mitt Romney that, you know, if he thought
it was good to say the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an
election, he`d say it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s powerful stuff there. Welcome to HARDBALL.

That was senior Obama adviser David Plouffe on "Meet the Press"
yesterday, clearly signaling that the 2012 presidential race is on and that
Mitt Romney is the candidate the Obama campaign is most worried about.

Back in August, a "Politico" piece previewed the Obama strategy. Its
headline, "Obama plan: Destroy Romney."

The story said, "Barack Obama`s aides and advisers are preparing to
center the president`s re-election campaign on a ferocious personal assault
on Mitt Romney`s character and business background. His aides are
increasingly resigned to running -- that`s the president`s aides -- to
running for re-election in a glum nation. And so, the candidate who ran on
hope in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing,
personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent."

Well, are we seeing the rollout of the Obama campaign strategy
already?

Sam Stein is the White House correspondent with the "Huffington
Post," and Susan Milligan is contributing editor at "U.S. News & World
Report."

Susan, that looked like the talking points to me of this Obama
reelection campaign voiced by its top kick.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Absolutely. Well, look,
that`s their strongest argument at this point, and that`s what Romney`s
problem has been in the primary, is that he`s not completely trusted by the
conservative wing of his party. And I think that there`s a sense that
people don`t completely know who he is.

Mario Cuomo had this issue come up when he was governor of New York
and he was running again and some people said, you know, you`ve got to
change your mind on the death penalty and be for the death penalty, most
New Yorkers are. And he wouldn`t do it.

And he sat with us in the statehouse and he said, if you change your
mind on something that fundamental, people won`t trust you again. You`re
not going to win over the people whose side you won`t over to and you`re
going to lose the people who were with you before. And people just want to
know who you are -- particularly on things like abortion and gay rights
that Mitt Romney has flipped on. And that`s what`s giving him problems
with his own base.

But I think it`s going to give him problems next year as well. And
since, I don`t -- the economy is not going to be Obama`s strong suit next
year. That`s what he`s going to have to do.

MATTHEWS: Sam, it`s interesting that parties that think the other
side might have gone too far to the right or too far to the left have still
decided to hit the opponent on being a flip-flopper. I`m thinking back to
the McGovern campaign in `72, the Nixon campaign through John Connelly
running something called Democrats for Nixon did the flip-flop ad with the
signs flipping around and going around 360 degrees at one point and
spinning around. The same thing was done against John Kerry in 2004 with
the Strauss Waltz music playing while he wind surfed.

Why do you think -- I`m asking you to teach me here -- why not go
after the opponent on his positions? Why go after him on his flipping?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: I wouldn`t dare try to teach on anything
about political history. But in the case of Romney, it`s because it`s
worked in the past. I mean, this was the attack line that Ted Kennedy
tried against him in `94 successfully. And if you remember, in 2008, this
is what Mike Huckabee and John McCain viciously went after him.

I remember, we looked it up, there was this attack on him for --
Romney defended him for -- he said his opponents were mischaracterizing his
position on Iraq during the 2008 debate, and Huckabee chimed in, which
position? It worked very effectively back then. It just gets to character
of the man running for office. Voters respond inherently to it, and I
think that`s what you`re seeing with David Plouffe going out and using it
again yesterday.

MATTHEWS: You just said something really well, Susan, about
candidates. And Teddy Roosevelt, who I really look up to, said the reason
he didn`t run for reelection in 2008 was that he said he wouldn`t. And he
said, if I did run, people would understand. But they`d always look at me
as a politician. And he didn`t want to be thought as a politician.

That doesn`t seem to bother Romney being thought of as a politician.

MILLIGAN: Right.

The other is, it`s one thing to change your mind on something like
raising taxes or something, where the circumstances change and you say, you
know, I said no new taxes, but right now, it looks like we`re going to need
some more revenues. But on some of these really fundamental issues that
people feel very strongly about, it just makes look like as, Plouffe said,
you have no core -- you have no core beliefs. But there`s a lot of
uncertainty in this country right now.

I mean, demographically, we`re changing dramatically, it`s unsettling
things for a lot of people. The economy is bad. So, you want some
consistency.

MATTHEWS: Objectively, do you think Romney has a core? Is there
anything he wouldn`t give on to get elected president? How`s that one?

MILLIGAN: That`s a pretty strong thing to say.

MATTHEWS: I`m asking you -- is there something that you can imagine
he says this is where I stand, like Martin Luther, I`m not going to give?
Is there anything he`s got like that, that you can think of?

MILLIGAN: Well, you could -- I can`t think of anything, no. You
can`t argue he might say that he`s flexible. But I mean, he doesn`t strike
me as somebody who has a strong ideology.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m being tough here. I`m playing HARDBALL with real
journalists.

Let me ask you, Sam. Can you think of something he won`t give on?

STEIN: Right. You said you were being too tough with Susan. I
don`t need to answer that question, do I?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: All right.

Here is Jon Huntsman answering the question. Here he is on his
favorite fellow religionist. I`m being sarcastic here. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is when the
candidates need to stand up and show a bit of leadership. You can`t be a
perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Susan, perfectly lubricated. Where does he get that?
That`s a great line.

MILLIGAN: I know. If he were doing better in the polls, it might
have gotten more press. That was really quite brilliant.

I do think that that`s his most damaging characteristic, and I don`t
think it`s a character assault in the same way as attacking somebody as
being elitist, which is such a vague term. It really does have to
fundamentally do with what your belief system is. And I think people can
deal with it if they disagree with you on something like that. But they
have a harder time when you seem to be finessing your views to fit the
circumstances.

MATTHEWS: Well said again.

STEIN: Let me -- can I jump in?

MATTHEWS: Sure. You`re in.

STEIN: Because it`s not just about his core. There`s another front
to this argument that the Obama team wants to make. And that`s looking
back at his time at Bain Capital. They think that they can use that part
of his biography to make him this sort of personification of income
inequality in America.

MATTHEWS: How`s so? Is he a chop shop guy? Is that how they`re
going to do it?

STEIN: Because I was in conversation with a senior administration
official on this, they think right now, they`ve looked at data, especially
from the Nielsen company, it shows people really upset about income
inequality in this country, much more so than ever before. And they look at
Mitt Romney and say here`s a guy who got rich no matter what happened to
his clients. His clients may have folded. They may send jobs overseas.
But he did well.

And there`s nothing better that that picture of Mitt Romney with his
Bain Capital buddies where they`re literally biting into $20 bills. They
think that works very well, too.

MATTHEWS: Well, on Sunday, Rick Perry and David Plouffe, appeared to
be working from the same talking points in criticizing Romney. He`s
getting it from both sides -- the Republican rivals, as well as the
Democrats. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s been for pro-
abortion.

PLOUFFE: He was an extremely pro-choice governor. Now he believes
that life begins at conception.

PERRY: He`s been for supporting for gay rights.

PLOUFFE: He was to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights, and now he
wants to amend the Constitution to prohibit gay marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Sam, same talking points.

STEIN: If it works. I mean, like I said, this is the same talking
points that`s been used against Romney for almost two decades now. And
it`s something that`s worked before, so why change it?

MATTHEWS: It looks like he`s back where he was, Susan, back in that
`94 race, with Ted Kennedy, multiple choice, right?

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

MILLIGAN: It does. And you know, Chris, he said something even very
recently he was asked during a debate about hiring illegal immigrants to
work on his lawn, and he said he went to the company and made sure they
were legal. And he said something to the effect of, look, we`re in an
election here, we can`t have this.

MATTHEWS: We`re being watched.

MILLIGAN: And that made it look worse.

MATTHEWS: We got to go, guys. Thank you so much, Sam Stein. Susan,
excellent points tonight.

When we return --

STEIN: Thanks.

MILLIGAN: Great book, Chris. Love the JFK book.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, keep saying it. You`re allowed to write about
it, if you`d like. Thank you very much.

MILLIGAN: I will.

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" with why one basic to becoming a leader is
to ask you to follow you. Kennedy asked. Obama needs to start asking now
-- or else. That`s next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this. As a student at Choate
in the early 1930s, young Jack Kennedy heard headmaster George St. John
recite a favorite maxim, quote, "The youth who loves his alma mater will
always ask, not what she can do for me, but what I can do for her."

When it was time for the challenge of the Cold War, those words
stuck. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for
your country. It was a call to duty. It was a very personal invitation to
each and every one of his fellow citizens.

He wasn`t going to do this alone, he said. The new frontier was not
going to be a solo act. We were going to meet it together. And Jack
Kennedy was going to be our leader.

He would create the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress,
boosting the space program, calling up troops to meet the Berlin crisis,
calling for civil rights for all Americans. His presidency was not going
to be a spectator sport, something to sit back, watch and judge.

And this is what the Obama presidency still needs -- the sense on the
part of the American public being called to join the effort. It is felt
most by all who voted for him with such enthusiasm, cried on election
night, got swept up in his inaugural fever.

There are certain basics to becoming a leader. The first is asking
people to follow. Kennedy asked, Obama still needs to. The American
people who elected Barack Obama have been on the verge of feeling
discarded. Too many feel they were used for that purpose, to give him the
job, and then fade back into the obscurity from which they cheered him, saw
him as their deliverance.

It`s something he has to fix and can. He needs to find inspirational
ways to include us in the work of rebuilding America. He needs to start
asking.

My book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero" is out in stores tomorrow. I`m
asking you to get it and please read it. It will lift your spirit and will
also challenge you.

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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