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updated 11/9/2011 4:36:46 PM ET 2011-11-09T21:36:46

HARDBALL
November 8, 2011

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

Guests: Cynthia Tucker, Dana Milbank, Michael Smerconish, Patrick Meehan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Showdown -- let`s play HARDBALL.

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews, out in San Francisco.

Leading off tonight: Cain denies all. It was one of those moment
where is we all had the same picture on, simultaneously. Herman Cain
decided to meet the press. And deny all the allegations of sexual
harassment against him in toto.

He said he couldn`t even remember Sharon Bialek, the woman who came
forward yesterday to say Cain had made physical, sexual advances on her.
Cain also said the accusations would not chase him from the presidential
race. Ain`t going to happen, Cain said.

Plus, Mitt takes a hit. A leading conservative Wed site, RedState.com
said nominating Romney against Obama is a death wish for conservativism.
Among his many criticisms, Erick Erickson writes, quote, "Mitt Romney is
going to be the Republican nominee, and his general election campaign will
be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him
and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process."

Erickson calls utterly unprincipled.

But if not Romney, who?

Also a story that saddened college football fans everywhere and
everyone in Pennsylvania, "The New York Times" reports Joe Paterno will
soon be out at Penn State, perhaps in the matter of days. At issue is his
failure to act aggressively upon being told that a former football coach
had allegedly sexually abused a boy in the football team`s showers.

And let me finish tonight with a bad marriage of the Republican and
Tea Parties.

Let`s start with Herman Cain defending himself.

NBC`s David Gregory is the moderator of "Meet the Press"; Eugene
Robinson is the columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political
analyst; and Cynthia Tucker is a political columnist and currently a
visiting professor at the University of Georgia.

I`m going to start with David.

David, as a reporter looking at this, where does this story go now in
terms of getting to the truth?

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Two tracks: political,
but also the facts of the case. I`ve talked to some lawyers, since last
time we talked, and they said, you know, the notion that it`s a he said/she
said is not really accurate.

In Bialek`s case, one of the central facts of her allegation, one of
the things that she alleges is that there was a room, a suite that Herman
Cain provided for her on the night that they went out. So it`s not just a
matter what he said and now he`s totally denying even knowing her. So,
presumably there`s a record there to actually go check. Is there a credit
card receipt? Is there some sort of record?

This is indicative of also the political problem. There are more
details. There are more facts that are likely to come out. There are
other accusers who are now prepared to go public.

How much more can Herman Cain take? He was definitive today, Chris.
Denied everything, said he`s never acted inappropriately. So, he was
certainly declarative and that`s weigh down a marker.

MATTHEWS: And in denying everything, he now has to defend any case,
any bit of evidence, as you pointed, including the records of an upgrade in
that hotel room that he was responsible for. It would contradict
completely his claim of utter lack of memory.

Here`s Herman Cain today. He said he never sexually harassed Sharon
Bialek and, in fact, didn`t even recognize her, doesn`t even know the
woman. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never acted
inappropriately with anyone, period. I saw Ms. Allred and her client
yesterday in that news conference for the very first time. As I sat in my
hotel room with a couple of my staff members, as they got to the
microphone, my first response in my mind and reaction was, I don`t even
know who this woman is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Gene Robinson, it seems this puts him in a position that
David points out, is quite factually based. He now has to defend any of
it, against any of it as to -- if this happened, that it did happen. Hotel
records, restaurant records, eyewitnesses, people like that, anything that
comes along and says he did know her, did have dinner with her, did have
drinks with her, did go for a ride -- any evidence along that lines crashes
him unless he has one last fallback, "I forgot."

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I forgot. I don`t
known that`s going to cut it, given the definitive nature of his denial.
He doesn`t remember her, this never happened, so the records are checkable.

Also in the -- the other case that we know a little bit about, the one
in which there was one of the two in which there was a settlement with the
National Restaurant Association and the woman who is now coming public, he
said that case was resolved with a finding that the allegations were
baseless. That`s checkable. There are records that the restaurant
association has, and we can see now if, indeed, those allegations are found
to be baseless or not.

MATTHEWS: And once this woman, Karen Kraushaar, talks tomorrow to the
press, we assume it`s coming soon, her evidence will be particular.

And then and we go down to Cynthia Tucker -- her evidence will be,
obviously, it was a big part of her life if it occurred, and she will say
something quite definitive and quite illustrative of an event, or series of
events and if they match up in terms of the charges made by Sharon Bialek,
the public, including the conservative public, may see a pattern of
misbehavior here, perhaps. Your thoughts.

CYNTHIA TUCKER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Absolutely. I don`t think for
one moment the restaurant association paid either a settlement or a
monetary agreement because Herman Cain once said to a woman you come up to
here, just like my wife does.

I suspect that we will hear accusations where he was clearly
inappropriate behavior that clearly crossed the line in a way that led the
National Restaurant Association to pay her money. And let`s bear in mind,
there were at least two women that the National Restaurant Association
reportedly paid money to. You don`t do that just because the chairman or
CEO has made some perhaps offensive comments in passing. You do that
because there is a pattern of conduct that is clearly questionable, and
over the days and weeks to come, Herman Cain is going to have to contend
with those charges coming out hour by hour or day by day, because he`s done
nothing to lay them to rest.

MATTHEWS: Are we sure there are two cases that called settlements or
called agreements? Or there is just one? Do we know that? Are you sure,
though, there was a second one as well?

TUCKER: I believe that there were two women to woman money was paid.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s see. Just a moment before Herman Cain began his
press conference today, the ranks of his public accusers grew by one. As
we mentioned, Karen Kraushaar, who works as a spokeswoman now for the
Treasury Department told "The New York Times" that she was coming forward,
because her name had been leaked to several news organizations. She`s one
of the two women who settled -- here we are -- settled sexual harassment
allegations against Cain with the National Restaurant Association.

"Politico," the political newsletter said, they first reported her
allegations but did not name her by name. Well, today we know that she
told "The New York Times," quote, "When are you being sexually harassed in
the workplace, you are extremely vulnerable. Do you whatever you can to
quickly get yourself into a job someplace safe, and that`s what I thought I
had achieved when I left."

And today, Cain was asked about Ms. Kraushaar in his press conference.
Let`s take a look at this exchange with a reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: This is your press conference where you are going to level
us with and tell us what happened. So tell us what she accused you of, and
what really happened? This is your chance. Thank you.

CAIN: Well, I can only recall one thing that I was aware of that was
called sexual harassment. The one thing that I remember, that I remember
during the day, when all of this broke loose, is that one day in my office
at the National Restaurant Association, I was standing next to Ms.
Kraushaar, and I gestured, standing near her like this, you are the same
height as my wife, because my wife comes up to my chin.

That was the one gesture that I remember. The door was open. My
secretary was sitting there. It wasn`t anything behind closed doors, I
gestured because of her height, comparing it to my wife`s height. End of
story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: David Gregory, I can only imagine, "Meet the Press" and
other organizations are thinking about -- well, let`s just put it this way.
Imagine a couple of these women sitting next to each other, imagine three
or four of them sitting next to each other, all making similar complaints
based upon their very personal memories of horrific experiences. Won`t
that have some firepower? Almost like a firing squad against them?

GREGORY: Well, Kraushaar said, what she told "The New York Times" is
that she`d like to have the four women come together to provide, her words,
as quoted, a body of evidence against Herman Cain, against his
recollection, which is thin, against his denial, which is absolute.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: In the case of Kraushaar, we know there was a settlement
before she left the National Restaurant Association. Again, you know, it`s
knowable to go back, even if you`re Herman Cain.

Now, for whatever reason, he doesn`t want to get into those details --
which gets to the political point. One of the things that people around
him are saying particularly who are working on the front lines in the early
states, look, it was important that he came out, he addressed this, he was
forthright about it -- if that`s what he ultimately was. And if everything
was true, that will provide some peace of mind to supporters.

But I`m also talking to pollsters who are doing checking and already
starting to hear now that his poll numbers are starting to shift.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: And that, of course, is the crack in the foundation that
they`re going to have to be watching very, very carefully as he is -- as he
is a front-runner, but I don`t think you can say he`s a durable front-
runner in this period.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to Gene. Eugene Robinson of "The Post." It
seems to me now we have another debate coming up tomorrow tonight on CNBC,
our sister channel, and it seems to me that if you are at all one of the
reporters there, it`s going to have to come up if you`re one of the other
candidates that`s going to come up. There`s a rivalry opportunity.

How does he get through tomorrow night even, with now, probably by
tomorrow night at this time, he will have two accusers publicly by name
with specific instances of what they consider, or I would consider sexual
assault in this one case, he was so physical. What do you make of the
situation facing him tomorrow night in the debate?

ROBINSON: Well, it`s a CNBC debate, it`s going to be focused on
economic matters. So, I think he just runs back to 9-9-9, every
opportunity.

MATTHEWS: That`s his 911.

ROBINSON: Right. That`s his 911. Exactly. Every question, no
matter what the question is.

But, you know, political impact of this, it`s -- to me, it`s uncertain
exactly what`s going to happen. There`s an element of Cain support that is
kind of based on, you know, almost a middle finger to the traditional
political process. He`s not like the others. He`s not the traditional
politician. He hasn`t ever held elective office. And I think there`s a
core that`s going to try to stick with him, no matter what.

Now, all bets are off if he is proven to have flat-out lied today.
But if it remains ambiguous, I don`t see all of his support just
evaporating.

GREGORY: Chris, can I add that talking to rival campaigns, there is
a lot of trepidation here to start pushing him around. And what is that
trepidation about? His support is strong. I mean, as Gene is suggesting,
this is hard-core, anti-establishment supporters who are out there, and
including those in the early states, because we`ve seen the polling.

One campaign said, look, we want his supporters to reluctantly come to
the conclusion that he can`t win and then who inherits that support?

MATTHEWS: You know, you are thinking what I`m thinking. That Newt
Gingrich has already figured out this Gordian Knot here, and he`s the one
who`s going to cut it, right? He`s going to be the best buddy Herman Cain
ever had on this planet for the next week, right?

GREGORY: I think in the debate tomorrow night, I think in the debate
Saturday night, they`re going to walk a very fine line.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: You know, it`d be in some people`s interest to remind people
that he was a lobbyist in Washington. Others who are trying to burnish
their anti-establishment credentials, and what may come with that is some
of the alleged activity while he was a lobbyist.

But short of that, I think they actually try to layoff of him. You
know, again, this is about what happens in the next few days and how much
support begins to crumble beneath him.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s a genius at what the Jesuits might call
disassembling. In fact, they taught us how to do it. That answer he gave
about whether he was going to take a lie detector test is for the record
books, guys. I still don`t know what he`s saying.

Anyway, thank you, David Gregory. Thank you, Gene Robinson, and,
Cynthia Tucker. What a team.

Coming up, we saw the accuser, we saw the response. Now, will Cain`s
presidential candidacy survive? We`re going to go to the politics of this
right now, which is our specialty.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Despite having to face reporters and a national television audience to
discuss multiple charges now of sexual harassment, Herman Cain insists he
remains optimistic about his chances. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: It is natural some voters would be turned off by the mere
mention of the accusations. That`s normal and that`s expected. And all
you have to do is look at campaigns historically and you are able to
identify those situations where some members of the public, some of the
voting electorate, are going to be influenced by the court of public
opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And as we said earlier, Cain made it clear, he`s not
getting out of the race. But what toll will this take on him politically?
What will happen today and what will happen tomorrow probably?

Howard Fineman is a senior political editor for "The Huffington Post,"
as well as an MSNBC political analyst. And Dana Milbank is a political
columnist with the great "Washington Post."

Howard, we`ve been through so much together. This one is so
fascinating. I have -- you and I, if we could get a piece of this guy`s
self-confidence and get rid of our composite guilt about everything. This
guy has no guilt about anything he`s ever possibly has done. He is
innocent of all impropriety in his whole life. He is St. Francis or
whatever, I don`t know who he is. He`s divine almost in his perfection.

And no matter what anybody throws at him, he just throws balk a very
logical statement: no, you`re wrong. I`m right.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I wish I could get away with
saying I`ve never done anything inappropriate to anyone ever.

But this is -- back in the Nixon years, they used to talk during
Watergate about a modified limited hangout. You know, that they would let
certain facts out, and they would then go from there.

This is Herman Cain doing the Full Monty.

MATTHEWS: The slow back.

FINEMAN: I mean, he`s saying -- yes. He`s saying no way, no how, I
don`t remember this woman, I don`t know this woman, I never did anything
wrong. There were any -- you know, there was never a settlement, never
any real accusations.

Keep in mind, this is a guy who`s somehow or another caused $80,000
worth of payments to be made to two staffers of the National Restaurant
Association back when he was the head of it, and he left the association
six months early on his contract.

So, something, somewhere along the line happened. But, of course,
he`s denying all and that makes it both perilous in terms of the evidence
and politically. Because all you need is one chink in that armor and I
think even the people who are staunchly with him right now will begin
having second thoughts.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this matter that fascinates me a
moment ago.

Dana Milbank, you could do a whole column on this one, which you are
genius at.

DANA MILBANK, WASHINGTON POST: I can`t do it late at night, though.

MATTHEWS: I know. You can`t use it late, this late.

Cain gave a somewhat inscrutable answer when asked whether he would
submit to a lie detector. Here`s what he said. Try to figure out what he
meant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: As distasteful as it might be, would you be willing to do a
lie detector test to prove your honesty in something like this?

CAIN: Yes.

REPORTER: Go ahead.

CAIN: Yes, I absolutely would. But I am not going to do that unless
I have a good reason to do that. I -- That`s one of the first covenants I
made in watching this with my staff. I`ve also shared that with my
attorney. Of course, I would be willing to do a lie detector test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What did he say, Dana?

MILBANK: Well, no way, not in on God`s green earth am I going to take
a lie detector test.

MATTHEWS: Or this -- yes, I absolutely would?

MILBANK: And then he said only I think it`s appropriate. And guess
who the arbiter of what is appropriate here? Which is the same thing
that`s going on with all of these accusations. It doesn`t matter what
somebody else says, even if he did it, if he does not consider that to be
inappropriate. And I think that`s what we`re talking about here is what
Herman Cain`s standard of inappropriate is, even if anybody --

MATTHEWS: Oh, no. I think you`ve been surpassed by this woman`s
testimony yesterday, which was graphic, detailed and close to what I would
consider assault. Her description, Bialek`s description, of what she said
happened, either he did or he didn`t, it`s not open to interpretation of
whether it`s appropriate or not, is it?

MILBANK: When we talked about that, that`s true. But I`m trying to
say, inside what I believe is the brain of Herman Cain, he believes he is a
perfect man who has beaten cancer and everything else, he can do no wrong.
So, anything that is conflicting with that is tossed out.

That`s behind many successful executives and many successful men, and
it`s behind many successful politicians. What we have here is an extreme
and an extraordinary case of somebody who actually is literally gotten to
the point where he can`t think of anything bad that he`s ever done.

MATTHEWS: Howard and Dana, we know now that the other woman, one of
the other women here, is going to come out and make a statement apparently
in the next 24 hours. So, what does that do politically?

If you`re Tony Perkins, if you`re one of the religious right leaders,
who I respect for their views, they have true views. They`re not
politicians particularly. They have principles.

What do they do if it becomes clear if there is a -- what I would call
-- what`s the right word they use in court? A mostly -- a dominance of
proof. Not a clear cut case.

FINEMAN: A preponderance of the evidence.

MATTHEWS: Thank you. You are a lawyer. I forgot.

MILBANK: A preponderance of the evidence.

MATTHEWS: The preponderance is against him.

FINEMAN: All right. I`m trying to view this from places I visit a
lot during the campaign year, which are the pews of mega churches in states
like Iowa and South Carolina and elsewhere.

They want to like Herman Cain because he seems like a decent guy.
They like his economic views. They like his professions of faith. They
like the fact that he`ll burst into gospel songs at any moment, OK?

They like all that. They know he`s a conservative. They want to show
that they`re not prejudice. They want to have a reason to vote for him.

But in their mind, they also have whatever reason not to vote for
them. And unless his story is straight, there is going to be a hesitation
there. They`re going to sit there in that church pew and they`re going to
say, do we really want to commit to a guy whose story we don`t quite know?

The other thing this raises beyond all of the questions of sexual
harassment, as serious as they are, is the question of: who is Herman Cain?
Who is he really? He burst on the scene as far as national politics is
concerned.

What do we really know about him? Who is he really? What is his
whole life story? What do we know beyond the smile and the evident
salesmanship -- aggressive salesmanship that he has?

And I think it`s going to make people with this person coming out
tomorrow, whatever else it will make some of the evangelicals in Iowa and
South Carolina hesitate.

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s interesting, Dana, one of the creeds of the
far right and a lot of them are against this, is we hate lobbyists. We
hate people that are lobbyists. We hate Washington, it`s corrupt, it`s
packed with lobbyists.

This is a lobbyist. I`m sorry. Did everybody notice? Now, he`s head
of the National Restaurant Association. He is a certified big-league,
major-league lobbyist as he pointed out today, 150 employees working on his
staff, basically lobbying the United States government for a pressure group
purpose, which is to help his industry.

MILBANK: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: How come he walks on that one?

MILBANK: Well, he`s all along he`s played this brilliantly well. You
know, he`s sort of in on the joke. You get the sense that he knows there
is some absurdity to his campaign, the lobbyist running as the ultimate
Washington outsider. I think you got a real moment -- one moment of
honesty tonight when he said, look, I don`t really care about the court of
public opinion.

Now, in the sense, that`s shocking for a politician because what is
politics but the court of public opinion. But he was saying I only care
about those people who support me and believe in me. He is dealing with
this, what is really a tiny sliver of the electorate, and that`s why they
won`t necessarily or certainly, all of them won`t necessarily pull away.
They`ll rally to his side when he runs against Washington.

MATTHEWS: Dana, I must disabuse of that. If you want to know what a
tiny sliver the electorate is, it`s the number of Republicans who are
enthusiastic about Mitt Romney, 11 percent of the Republicans say they are
enthusiastic about him. I`m sure there`s a larger percentage enthusiastic
about Herman Cain.

MILBANK: That`s not a sliver, that`s a scintilla.

FINEMAN: What we`re talking about here, let`s say there`s going to be
a turnout of maybe 150,000, 175,000 in the Republican caucuses in Iowa on
January 3rd. Herman Cain is playing for 25,000 or 30,000 of those. Will
those people be shaken by what they hear progressively over the next few
days? Will they instead alternatively circle around and defend him?

I think the chances of their circling around and heartfully embracing
him diminish with each passing day as another actual face comes out, not
just the media conspiracy, but an actual person comes forth. That`s what
he`s got to worry about. Those are those people. If he ends up finishing
in the obscure distance in Iowa, then he can forget it.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is an interesting story. Let`s hope we get the
truth and we get fairness in all of this.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Dana Milbank.

Up next, more social philosophy from GOP candidate Michele "it`s every
man for himself" Bachmann. That`s in the "Sideshow."

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Now, for the "Sideshow."

First up: Jon Huntsman is stuck at about 1 percent in the polls. And
more than a few people suggested that his real goal isn`t to win, but to
derail Mitt Romney. Latest evidence from the Huntsman camp, a new Web
site, ScaredMittless2012.com, boasting a logo with the catch phrase, "Mitt
Romney, running from America," and a clock counting up the time from the
last Sunday appearance by Romney. We stand now at day 610.

And let`s check out this site`s latest video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: He has not appeared on this program or
any Sunday talk show since March of 2010. We invited Governor Romney again
this week, but his campaign says he`s still not ready.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just don`t take questions.
What I don`t want to do is -- listen to my words. Listen to my words.
That is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE NARRATOR: He`s still not ready to sit down for an
interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I guess last week`s ad dubbing Romney a perfectly
lubricated weather vane is more of a jumping off point for Huntsman. He
clearly got it out for Mitt. He knows his only - his only chance of
breaking in to this thing is getting with the Romney after New Hampshire.

Next up, a daily dose of Charles Dickens. And its GOP candidate
Michele Bachmann in takes the podia for this one. The candidate spoke
yesterday at the family research council and press for spending cuts to
social programs. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHEL BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our nation needs to stop
doing for people what they can and should do for themselves. That revives
the principle of a national work ethic that we have sadly forgotten. That
means an honest day`s work for an honest day`s pay. Self-reliance means,
if anyone will not work, neither should he eat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. Well, it`s
biblical language, but not exactly religious.

And finally, early this year, the White House launched a new Web site
where Americans can petition government officials to answer their questions
on basically anything as long as they gathered enough signatures.

What`s one of the topics that finally garner a response, the economy,
foreign affairs, nope, aliens? That`s right.

The petition called for the White House to answer quote "immediately
disclose the government`s knowledge of communications with extraterrestrial
beings and formerly acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the
human race." We would have seen that one coming, would you?

But in all due diligence, the office of Science and Technology help up
each end of the bar releasing this statement "the U.S. government has no
evidence that any life exists outside our planet or that an
extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human
race. In addition there, is no credible information to suggest that any
evidence is being hidden from the public`s eye." It would have been very
interesting if the government office had said anything else but that.

Up next, Mitt Romney takes a big hit from a leading conservative Web
site, calling the possibility of Romney winning the nomination "an utter
disaster." But if not Romney then who? Cain? You`re watching HARDBALL on
MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
Here`s what`s happening.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he`s doing it for the
good of the country. He has agreed to resign after the parliament passes
economic reforms rather demanded by the European Union.

Meanwhile, Greece will unveil a new government tomorrow after its
prime minister was forced from office under similar circumstances.

U.S. officials are exploring the possibility of further sanctions
against Iran after a scathing U.N. report provided the strongest evidence
yet that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Three senior air force officials are being disciplined after a probe
found gross mismanagement in the handling of bodies of military personnel
at Dover air force base.

The polls just turned out in Ohio with official there reporting steady
to heavy turnout. And voters decide the fate of the crucial limiting
collective bargaining right for a public worker.

And wrapper heavy D, who branched out to movie and TV appearances has
died after being rushed to the hospital in Los Angeles. He was only 44
years old.

Now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Is Mitt Romney a real
conservative?

A lot of conservatives say no, and worry they are missing their chance
in nominating a true believer to take on President Obama at a time when he
is vulnerable. This morning, Erick Erickson of the influential
conservative Web site Redstate.com wrote a state scathing post about Romney
quote "Mitt Romney is not the George W. Bush of 2012. He is the Harriet
Miers of 2012. Only conservative because a few conservative grand pooh-
bahs tells us, Mitt Romney is conservative. And for no other reason, Mitt
Romney is going to be the Republican nominee and his general election
campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP
down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the
process."

Can Romney withstand these kinds of attacks and pick up the three
quarters of Republican voters who aren`t with him yet?

With me now are two veteran presidential campaign strategists,
democrat Bob Shrum, most recent the Kerry 2004 campaign and Republican
Steve Schmidt, who worked on the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign and in 2008, the
McCain campaign. He is also an MSNBC political analyst.

Steve Schmidt, I want your thoughts about this. And now it looks like
Cain has got problems up the kazoo. He has got to keep battling. It does
like more and more like Romney is going to be the nominee. Can he be a
good nominee, a winning nominee if so many are conserves are openly
contentious of his beliefs?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I do think that he is likely
to be the nominee, if for no other reason he`s the only plausible
Republican candidate for presidency at this point in the race. And I think
Erickson`s he comments are unfair to Romney. And one of the things - just
remembering the McCain campaign, Chris, in 2008 is you had all these
"conservatives" who were cheer leading for Mitt Romney during the entire
duration of the primary. He was the conservative candidate. And now some
elements have turned against him.

But I think if you read what Mitt Romney says, if you follow Mitt
Romney`s vision, I think he is clearly a conservative candidate in the
race, and I -- I don`t understand why Erick Erickson would go out and say
that Mitt Romney is not capable of winning a race when in fact no president
has gotten re-elected with an unemployment rate above 7.4 percent.

MATTHEWS: Can you name an issue on which Mitt Romney will not bend in
order to win?

SCHMIDT: Look, I think that --

MATTHEWS: Name one. Name one, Steve. You know he won`t change.

SCHMIDT: I think -- I think that -- I think that you know these were
issues for Mitt Romney in the Senate race, in the presidential race last
time. And at the end of the day, he will have to deal with it. It`s a
criticism. John Kerry had to deal with it.

MATTHEWS: No. But you have to deal with it now, you, sir. My
colleague, name one issue which Mitt Romney will not bend on in order to
win the presidency?

SCHMIDT: I`m not -- I`m not a spokesperson. I`m not a spokesperson
for Mitt Romney. But I believe he is you know that he is enunciated his
plans pretty clearly on fiscal issues. He gave us a serious talk about
entitlement reform. I don`t think Mitt Romney would ever compromise the
national security of the country. I think he`s prepared to be president,
and I think he`ll have to deal with issues in the context of a race.

I think it`s important to remember that this was a line of attack we
used against John Kerry in 2004, but it didn`t become a disabling issue to
John Kerry until he went out and said he voted before it before he voted
against it.

Mitt Romney has to be very careful. All campaigns begin with assets
and liabilities. This is clearly a liability. The Romney people are aware
of it. His strategies are smart people. And we`ll see what happens.

MATTHEWS: Bob Shrum, here is more what Erick Erickson said about the
flip-flopping issue. "Romney is a man devoid of any principles other than
getting himself elected. As much as the American public does not like
Barack Obama they loathe a man so fueled with ambition that he will say or
do anything to get himself elected. Mitt Romney is that man. I`ve been
reading the 200 peaches of single-spaced opposition research from the John
McCain campaign on Mitt Romney. There is no issue I can find on which Mitt
Romney has not taken both sides. He has neither liberal nor conservative.
He is simply unprincipled. The man has no core beliefs, other than in
himself. Mitt Romney is the silly putty of politicians. Press on him real
hard, and he`ll take on whatever image you press into him, until the next
group starts pressing."

That is damnable -- damning rather description of anybody. Bob Shrum,
could you help us here? You ran against a campaign against him. Can you
think of something that Mitt Romney would stand on and accept defeat on
because he`s so principled? Any issue.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I haven`t seen one yet. Look, this
guy gives flip flopping a good name. He`s a warp speed weather vane. And
he has changed on issues, large and small issues of conscience, issue of
policy. Steve is quite right. And I love Steve and he was trying hard in
that segment.

But Steve is quite right. Kerry got caught up in this, because he
said I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it. His record was
actually a lifetime of consistency on all of the big principled issues.

Romney`s record is a lifetime of changing as your candidate, Steve,
John McCain said in 2008 when Romney said I stand for change, and McCain
says you sure do. You change all the time.

So, I don`t think Erickson`s right. I think it is going to be a close
tough election. I don`t think you can necessary write Romney off, saying
he has no chance. And I think Steve is also right. He is the only
plausible nominee.

MATTHEWS: Why Steve, do the other candidates always end up hating
Romney personally?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Personally.

SCHMIDT: Well, you know, look, I think in the you know in the 2008
campaign, Mitt Romney was the first perch to run a negative ad that rubbed
some of them the wrong way. But look, he`s the front-runner in the race.

MATTHEWS: Huckabee said he had no soul. And you`re guy, McCain, was
so mad at him, he ran Sarah Palin as his running mate because he couldn`t
stand the idea of giving Mitt Romney a break by making his VP running mate.

SCHMIDT: I would dispute the Sarah Palin pick was revenge --

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: You know, look, at the end of the day, the economy is
terrible, the Republican candidate is somebody who is going to need -- is
going to have to be someone who can make an economic argument. And I think
you saw with the Herman Cain news conference if that`s the stuff we are
going to talk about on the Republican side in the election, we`re doomed.
And so -- and so I think that Mitt Romney right now, like I said, he`s the
plausible candidate in this race.

MATTHEWS: In other words, you can run Sam the sham and he will win
against Obama, that`s the basic argument you`re making, right? Sam the
sham can win this.

SCHMIDT: Listen, I think he`s going to be a very tough opponent. You
know, the president is forceful, he`s disciplined, he`s focused, and
Republicans shouldn`t be dancing in the end zone, despite what the economic
indicators are.

MATTHEWS: Shrum, more time next time. Thank you, Bob Shrum. Thank
you Steve Schmidt.

Up next, legendary Penn State football coach, our hero for many of us.
Joe Paterno may soon be out for his failure to take stronger action against
the former coach who had, well, allegedly sexually abused a boy in the
football team shower. This is a bad, bad situation.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Penn state community has
been rocked by charges against a former coach, Jerry Sandusky, accused of
sexually abusing eight boys over the span of 15 years, young kids
basically. This time been covered his time working at the university and
in retirement.

And now, the scandal could affect the tenure of the beloved legendary
coach, Joe Paterno, who everybody loves. Although Paterno has done nothing
illegal, but many involved with the case say he didn`t do enough when he
was confronted with the allegations against Sandusky back in 2002.

"The New York Times" reports, "Penn state said to be planning Paterno
exit amid scandal"
Well, joining me right now is Pennsylvania`s Patrick Meehan who today asked
Education Secretary Arnie Duncan for a federal investigation in the
Sandusky charges and MSNBC political analyst Michael Smerconish.

Guys, hold on for one second. Michael gives us the narration of the
story up to date now. Where it`s at?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think as it
relates to coach Paterno, Chris, the worst of it pertains to so-called
victim number two. It is March of 2002, a graduate assistant working with
the Penn state football program goes into the locker room, 9:30 at night
and reportedly sees coach Sandusky engaged in anal intercourse with a boy
he estimates to be 10 years old. He doesn`t intercede, doesn`t call the
police, he calls his father he tells the grand jury. His father says
you`ve got to tell Paterno.

So, the following day in person, he tells coach Paterno. Paterno`s
response, the following day, now Sunday, is to tell the athletic director.
And therein Paterno says he has discharged his responsibility, which
legally speaking he may have done, but from a humanity standpoint, there is
a lot of outrage in happy valley that he didn`t do enough.

And subsequently and frankly, something reminiscent in the way the
church has handled this, nothing is done other than to ask this man to
surrender his keys and his access to the locker room. And that`s why
people are so horrified.

MATTHEWS: So he basically -- this coach or this person, the graduate
student witnessed basically the intercourse of an adult male with a
prepubescent boy.

SMERCONISH: Correct. And he maintained, and I have the grand jury
report here, that`s the way he explained it to coach Paterno. Paterno`s
testimony in the grand jury was that he was told that there was quote
"fondling or do something of a sexual nature."

Well, not exactly anal intercourse, but pretty damn bad either any way
you slice it.

MATTHEWS: You know, let`s go to Congressman Meehan. Congressman
Meehan, thank you. You`re a freshman now. You don`t expect to face these
kinds of situations. What do you think a federal investigation will
achieve here?

REP. PATRICK MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well Chris, there was a
significant point here is that there was an obligation under the clearly
act all the way back in 2002 to report incidents of crime that take place
on campus. And according to the university`s own guidelines, there would
have been an investigation that would have been done by the university
police back in 2002. And if you had that, you would have had the
opportunity to ask this graduate assistant, who`s now been identified as
Mike McCurry (ph) who`s an assistant coach at Penn state, back in 2002 what
he saw.

And also likely would have had an opportunity to identify who this 10-
year-old boy was and we would have been able to resolve this incident
almost a decade ago. To think that since that time, you know, the mile
foundation has continued -- the second mile has continued to operate and
for over nearly a decade Sandusky presumably has continued to have access
to young boys.

MATTHEWS: Now, these people in these programs, these programs that
teal with young boys, they`re basically operating in local apprentice.
They have the responsible as a parent, Congressman. I mean to abuse a
child in this case sexually is just horrible and the idea of how people
live with this or know about somebody they know, who`s been engaged in some
kind a heinous behavior and says, that`s one of the things we deal with
here.

Penn state treats football as a religion. I want to go on Michael on
this. Mike, can you get this, too? It`s a religion up there in Penn
state. Go up any day, any football game up there, realize the value they
place. Would this like a religious thing almost that they covered it up
because it might affect the program? Is that what happened here?

SMERCONISH: I think that`s a great analogy. I think in several
different moments of truth, again, and again, we`re accepting as accurate
the grand jury report. But in several different moments of truth, each of
these individuals showed an allegiance to the institution. Meaning I think
the Penn state football program as opposed to these eight young boys who
were being victimized in the most heinous of fashion.

MATTHEWS: And these weren`t football recruits. These were boys. Not
men. Congressman, you were U.S. attorney, and by the way, respected one
for a long time in Philadelphia. What do you think of this case?

MEEHAN: Well, I think there was a duty to inquire. I mean, I clearly
think this is the kind of a case that`s going to have more significant
ramifications for Penn state. Because apart from the legalities, too many
adults turned and looked the other way when there should have been notice
there was a reasonable duty of inquiry. There had to be adults that
continued to watch Sandusky around children. And what you may not
appreciate, is there was an investigation, some of them, particularly
athletic director, were aware of a 1998 investigation into exactly this
kind of conduct. The district attorney apparently chose not to prosecute,
but when you see subsequent conduct, that in and of itself, I think
requires adults to take an additional step and to assure that Sandusky is
fully investigated and that there isn`t an ability to be near children.
Look, this is grooming conduct that I used to see as a prosecutor.

MATTHEWS: You know, I just think we always have to remember our first
responsibility is to the children, not to the fellow adults. We shouldn`t
look out for the guilty. We should look out for the innocent. Boy, it
just gets sounds so much like the church, my church.

Thank you U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan and Michael Smerconish.

So, I`m out here in San Francisco today. This morning I spoke at the
Jewish community center a great crowd. And tonight I`ll be at the common
wealth crowd of Silicon Valley. I`m going to talk about my new book
tonight "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero." Great crowds, great reactions to
people to a great hero we has a president. Jack`s first political battle
of course was with his father who he challenged. He challenged Joseph
Kennedy`s appeasement policies of World War II. That`s how Jack started
out in life, challenging his father.

When we return, how the Republican Party is paying for instill with
the tea party?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this.

The Republican Party is paying for its deal with the tea party, right
now. The tea party helped the Republicans win control of the house last
year. John Boehner holds the speakership because of that deal. But the
deal is undermining the chances of the Republicans to win in 2012.

Tea partiers don`t like taxes. Don`t like the government. Don`t like
government, period. And this explains as I`ve said before why the tea
partiers don`t believe in leaders. They don`t believe in having leaders.
Why have leaders if you don`t want them to govern?

What they like people who attack government, people like Sarah Palin
who is a hard critic of government. She spent two years discovering it was
more to her liking to be outside of government than running Alaska as its
governor.

The same goes for most of the candidates who show up for these
Republican debates. Ron Paul is a critic of government as such. He
doesn`t want to run the government. He wants to basically shrink down to a
size where anyone can run it.

So now, the Republicans face the awful outlook of having two
candidates still standing for president. One they don`t like, don`t trust,
really don`t want to see in the White House. Really don`t want to have to
defend once he gets there, if he gets there.

The other really is not likely to get to the White House but embodies
and his soul the tea party mentality, which is you don`t have to know
anything about government to run against it, which is what tea partiers do.
All you need is kind of unexplained self-confidence that you can do
whatever you set out to do, that you need to apologize for nothing, need to
demonstrate knowledge about nothing.

And how does this play out? How does a party go before the American
people with a candidate for president it would prefer not to see in the
presidency or a candidate whom no one else but the tea party could imagine
there?

Mitt Romney, the candidate they don`t like or Herman Cain, the
candidate who nobody but the tea party can imagine in the country`s highest
office. Which will it be? How did it come to this?

It came to this when the Republicans decided to cut a deal with the
political force, the tea partiers, who really don`t share even their
Republican limited confidence in government. A political force determined
not to race up, but to bring down.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "The Ed show"
with Ed Schultz 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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