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updated 11/16/2011 10:01:12 AM ET 2011-11-16T15:01:12

Guests: Dana Milbank, Ron Reagan, Ed Rollins, Ezekiel Emanuel

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Wait, wait, don`t tell me!

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off
tonight: Let`s go to the videotape. We have two pieces of tape tonight
that you just can`t take your eyes off. The first is Herman Cain`s
bumbling answer on Libya, which makes you almost forget that "Oops" of Rick
Perry`s. If fear of foreign policy questions is a criterion for winning
the Republican presidential nomination, Cain is a shoo-in.

The other bit of must-see TV is Bob Costas`s interview last night with
Penn State`s Jerry Sandusky. To believe Sandusky`s denials is to believe
that everyone else is wrong or lying and that he, Jerry Sandusky, is
innocent of anything bad. Well, you`ve got to see this interview, too.

Plus: Take me to the return window. Democrats today began their
effort to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Walker`s one of three
new Republican governors in big swing states -- John Kasich in Ohio and
Rick Scott in Florida are the others -- whose approval ratings are in the
negative territory. Both states -- those states could well determine the
election, and unpopular Republican governors could be very good news for
President Obama.

And with enemies like these, who needs friends? Michele Bachmann`s
new Web ad makes a devastating case against every viable Republican in the
race. In other words, it doesn`t include her. It`s so good, she`s done
the Democrats` job for them. More must-see TV tonight in the "Sideshow."

And "Let Me Finish" with the two things driving the Republican
presidential race, hate and indifference to experience.

We start with Herman Cain. Michael Steele is the former chair of the
Republican National Committee. He`s now an MSNBC political analyst. And
Dana Milbank is a columnist for "The Washington Post."

Gentlemen, let`s go straight to the tape, as Howard used to say.
Here`s Herman Cain yesterday answering a question from the editorial board
of "The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel" about Libya. Let`s watch and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you agreed with President Obama on Libya or
not?

HERMAN CAIN (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, Libya. President
Obama supported the uprising, correct? President Obama called for the
removal of Gadhafi. Just want to make sure we`re talking about the same
thing before I say, yes, I agreed, or no, I didn`t agree.

I do not agree with the way he handled it for the following reason --
no, that`s a different one. I`ve got to go back and see. Got all this
stuff twirling around in my head.

I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is.
And I`m sure that our intelligence people had that -- had some of that
information. Based upon who made up that opposition, OK, based upon who
made up that opposition might have caused me to make some different
decisions about how we participated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Michael Steele, that performance
by the candidate who`s now leading in some of the polls for the Republican
presidential nomination?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Honestly,
painful. It`s very difficult to watch. It`s very difficult because you
know, and everyone has acknowledged, that this is a very, very weak spot
for Herman Cain.

And I think that at this level, and certainly at this point in the
campaign, you`ve got to get this stuff where it`s second nature. It`s not
the same as what Perry went through the other night, where you`re going
through a check -- and you just blank. This is clearly trying to pull the
card that has the points.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: And that`s just not how you go about speaking about foreign
policy because it is such a fluid area of our life in this country and in
this world. And you`ve got to be on top of it. So I think it was a very
painful moment to watch.

There`s a lot, you know, that can be made of it, for the negative.
But I think that the bottom line is folks are looking at that and going,
OK, that 3:00 o`clock call in the morning, you know? And that`s not a spot
you want to be in when the vote starts in six weeks.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Dana because I`m not -- I usually don`t go --
first, it`s not about brains. The guy`s a smart guy. It`s about
preparation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And I want to go to Dana on this. And that`s -- clearly,
it`s not about background. It`s really about curiosity. He obviously
hasn`t been reading the papers for the last X many months about Libya.
Just -- it`s in the papers. It`s not like you got to go deep into the
foreign section. It sits there. A lack of curiosity about one of the
things you should be curious about if you want to be president of the
United States, I think. That`s a value judgment. What`s yours?

DANA MILBANK, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I would say so, Chris. I mean,
this is different from him not knowing what a neoconservative is, OK? That
struck a lot of us as odd who had been participating in the political
debate over the last decade. Sort of impossible to miss Libya altogether,
yet he seemed to have done that. And if anything, I think playing that
brief part of the clip is friendly to Herman Cain because this goes on not
for 53 seconds, like Rick Perry, it goes on for five minutes like this...

MATTHEWS: What did you -- what made you think I`d stop there?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the rest of it. Generosity is not the name of
this show. It`s not "Success" magazine here. It`s called HARDBALL.

Cain struggled to explain his thought process on Libya for over five
minutes, as Dana Milbank helped us with. Let`s watch some more of what he
wants us to see, Dana. Here it is, buddy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Some people want to say, Well, as president, you`re supposed to
know everything. No, you don`t. I believe in having all of the
information, as much of it as I possibly can, rather than making a decision
or making a statement about whether I totally agreed and didn`t agree, when
I wasn`t privy to the entire situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I`m not clear, then. What was the parts that
you`re criticizing the president for, of how he handled it?

CAIN: OK. The opposition that wanted to overthrow Gadhafi -- who are
they? How organized are they? How strong are they? Who would be the
apparent leader? Now that they have succeeded, did they have a plan for
how they were going to govern, or are you going to end up now with a
country in complete chaos? This is what I mean by...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So -- but if they didn`t have that, then would you
back off and not have gotten as involved as...

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: It would depend upon which part they didn`t have. What I`m
saying is, it`s not a clear yes/no answer because all of those things, I
think, should have been assessed. That`s what I`m saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael, I think you got -- excuse me -- I think you`ve got
it here. It`s not that he doesn`t have a lot of pieces to the question.
He has a lot of the elements of what anybody in the presidency would have
to ask. He gets to it, but no cogency.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: No compelling coherence, no, I`ve got it together. I`ve
through this through a little bit. I think I know where I`m going. It`s
like he had never thought of it until that guy asked the question.

STEELE: Well, that`s precisely it, Chris. And you know, I know how
these sessions go, these -- preparation on issues and the debate sessions
go. And what the candidate has to do is to take all that information --
because you can be in a room for six hours and they can go through a whole
series of issues with you.

You`ve got to take those cards, you`ve got to take your notes, and
you`ve got to go back and begin to internalize this, so that when you run
into, you know, a board meeting like that or a reporter out on the campaign
trail who asks the pop question, you can, you know, just viscerally respond
with your answer because you know it. You`ve internalized it and you
understand exactly nuances of it.

And I think that`s the part that`s been a little bit of struggle for
Herman in just terms of taking all of the complexities of foreign policy
and internalizing it in such a way that when you`re asked about Libya, you
know two, three things off the top of your head that you want to respond to
immediately because what you would do as president is A, B and C. And so
that, I think, is the stumbling block right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s my tough critique. You know, darn it, it`s
not just an analytical problem for this guy, Dana and Michael. It`s not
just to answer the tricky question from the tricky reporter who`s trying to
catch you. Most Americans had a human response when they heard that
Gadhafi, who`s a bad guy, a bad customer, was heading to Benghazi to wipe
out an entire province, practically, because they were rebelling against --
he was going to wipe them out. He said, I`m going to kill everybody there.

People had -- Hillary Clinton, to her credit, and Samantha Power and
Susan Rice at the U.N., the three people in the foreign policy community,
said, No, we are not going to stand by for another Rwanda. We`re not going
to let another African government just come in and kill everybody because
they feel like it. That was a gut reaction.

It seems to me that Mr. Cain did not have a gut reaction to whether we
should have gone in. And that is a problem. You should have a reaction.
Either stay out because you`re principled in your isolationism...

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... or, Damn it, American people have to take
responsibility as human beings occasionally.

MILBANK: Well, right. And his reaction was that he ultimately wound
up agreeing. And as the clip closes, he`s saying, Well, maybe President
Obama did everything right in the first place.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MILBANK: The instinct is to oppose Obama, no matter what he has done.
And I think that`s true across the board among the Republicans. The
problem is, there are many cogent critiques to be made. The problem is
that he didn`t settle on one of those, which would indicate he didn`t have
one in his head in the first place.

MATTHEWS: Well, yesterday, Cain`s campaign tried to explain the
embarrassing episode by saying the candidate was operating on only four
hours of sleep. The candidate himself didn`t seem to think there was
anything wrong with his answer when he was asked about it this afternoon.

Let`s watch this interesting back-and-forth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Being in a room where you`re being asked question after
question on different topic after different topic, I paused. And I don`t
understand why that pause created so much, quote, unquote, "controversy." I
have never not taken responsibility for what some people perceive as
mishaps, missteps, or whatever the case may be. In that particular case, I
paused to gather my thoughts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Cain had this odd exchange, as I said,
with a reporter who asked him about his Libya comments. Let`s watch this
one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cain, do you think the Libya comments
reinforced the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us walk through! Let us walk through!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... idea that you don`t have a thorough
understanding of foreign policy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us walk through.

CAIN: 9-9-9.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, now he`s speaking German, Michael.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That`s N-E-I-N, N-E-I-N, N-E-I-N.

STEELE: Yes, that`s right!

MATTHEWS: What do you think of him? He`s just sort of laughing it
off. Is he in freefall, do you think, this guy, as a candidate, just an --
as an MSNBC analyst now, do you think his time is passing?

STEELE: I think -- I think the peak has been reached and I think the
numbers are showing that. And I think this type of an event continues, if
not accelerates, those numbers beginning to flatline. And that`s
unfortunate because I think Herman had an opportunity to really shape some
of the debate here...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEELE: ... but it is the personal missteps that seem to be the
killer. And I think it`s unfortunate.

MATTHEWS: It`s troubling because we do want somebody who understands
business, and that`s his strength. But it just -- it`s just like pulling
the sheets across from your wife in the middle of the night. Somebody gets
cold.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: There`s some areas you just don`t cover when you say, I`m
an expert on Godfather Pizza and the restaurant association, I don`t know
nothing about North Africa!

Anyway, thank you, Michael Steele.

STEELE: That`s why you get a bigger sheet, you know?

MATTHEWS: Well, that is one answer. For the better off 1 percent,
that`s true. Thank you.

Coming up, the man at the center of the Penn state child scandal --
sex scandal speaks out for the first time. What a get this was last night
for "ROCK CENTER." Jerry Sandusky was interviewed last night by NBC`s Bob
Costas and he says he`s innocent of everything. It`s must-see TV. We`ve
got it coming up next here on HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I`ve got a brand-new Bloomberg poll out of Iowa right now.
It`s something you don`t see every day. Check it out right now. With
exactly seven weeks to go, it`s a four-way in the Iowa -- four-way. Herman
Cain leads with 20, but Ron Paul`s at 19. Same thing, basically,
statistically. Romney, same deal, 18. Gingrich, same thing, 17. Three
points separate those four candidates. Anybody`s game. By the way, the
margin of error, 4.4. They`re all within it.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Former Penn state assistant coach Jerry
Sandusky last night admitted to showering with young boys, but claims, or
says, he`s innocent of the 40 counts he`s currently charged with,
including, quote, "involuntary deviant sexual intercourse."

For the latest on this story, I`m joined by MSNBC political analyst
and nationally syndicated radio host Michael Smerconish. Michael, let`s
watch the interview. Here`s Jerry Sandusky last night with Bob Costas on
"ROCK CENTER."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SANDUSKY, CHARGED WITH CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE (via telephone): I
say that I am innocent of those charges.

BOB COSTAS, NBC "ROCK CENTER": Innocent? Completely innocent and
falsely accused in every aspect?

SANDUSKY: Well, I could say that, you know, I have done some of those
things. I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts.
I have hugged them and I have touched their leg, without intent of sexual
contact, but -- so if you look at it that way, there are things that --
that wouldn`t -- you know, would be accurate.

COSTAS: Are you denying that you had any inappropriate sexual contact
with any of these underage boys?

SANDUSKY: Yes, I am.

COSTAS: Never touched their genitals? Never engaged in oral sex?

SANDUSKY: Right.

COSTAS: What about Mike McQueary, the grad assistant who in 2002
walked into the shower, where he says, in specific detail, that you were
forcibly raping a boy who appeared to be 10 or 11 years old, that his hands
were up against the shower wall, and he heard rhythmic slap, slap, slapping
sounds, and he described that as a rape?

SANDUSKY: I would say that that`s false.

COSTAS: What would be his motive to lie?

SANDUSKY: You would have to ask him that.

COSTAS: What did happen in the shower the night that Mike McQueary
happened upon you and the young boy?

SANDUSKY: OK. We were showering and horsing around. And he actually
turned all the showers on and was actually sliding across the floor. And
we were, as I recall, possibly, like, snapping a towel in horseplay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh! Well, my mouth`s open. Michael Smerconish, where do I
begin? Where do I begin here? Why did he take a shower to begin with,
with the kid? He wasn`t involved in the sports activity, he was coaching.
I mean, isn`t that the most primitive (ph) question you could ask? What
are you doing in the shower? You`re the grown-up. The kids had the sports
event.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I
think it`s devastating. I don`t know why he even granted that interview to
Bob Costas.

MATTHEWS: Oh!

SMERCONISH: I have to believe that his lawyer must have been of the
opinion that every potential jury pool on the planet earth is in the
process of being poisoned, so they needed to at least have some footage out
there of him denying the charges.

But Chris, in the process, he corroborates many elements of those
charges that he faces, and then comes just shy of giving an admission. For
example, he`s acknowledging, yes, that`s me, that`s the guy that they`re
all talking about. Yes, I was at Penn State. Yes, I was in the shower.
Yes, I was naked. Yes, I was with a kid. Yes, there was touching going
on. So it`s going to be very, very hard for him to later...

MATTHEWS: What about the towel snapping? What about this towel
snapping that...

SMERCONISH: How does he draw a line...

MATTHEWS: ... makes the sound of the sexual activity he`s accused of?
What are we up with towel snapping? How`d that fit into his defense, his
alibi?

SMERCONISH: Well, I think it was all very odd, odd as it sounds,
because I think it was a horrific interview for him to have given...

MATTHEWS: Oh!

SMERCONISH: ... and terrible, devastating...

MATTHEWS: By the way, the other side of the coin, Costas -- Costas
was Perry Mason here. I mean, this was brilliant interrogation. I mean,
he -- he came around, and every time the guy got the question BS`ing, he
came around the other corner and hit him from the other side and said,
Therefore. I mean, he was -- God, he carved him!

SMERCONISH: Well, how does he even -- here`s a follow-up I would have
loved to have asked. How does he even remember the incident with
McQueary...

MATTHEWS: Oh!

SMERCONISH: ... if it were as innocent as he would have us believe?
It happened in 2002. It was a walk-by by McQueary. If there was nothing
untoward taking place, how can he now speak with such a level of
specificity about the kid turning on all the showers and sliding on his
buttocks across the floor? I`m telling you, there are so many ways to chew
him up, I think, based on that interview.

MATTHEWS: Yes. "I have touched their leg." Why would he agree to
that? Why would he say these -- why would he give -- what`s this, a
limited, modified hangout, like they used to say in Watergate, admit 80
percent of it?

SMERCONISH: Right.

What he`s going to try to do is say, and that`s where it ended. But
the more I read this grand jury report, I don`t see where there could be
any in-between. Either he`s stone-cold innocent and didn`t do any of this,
or he`s guilty of all of it. It`s, you know, that old adage, you can`t get
a little bit pregnant.

MATTHEWS: And the horrible part is the mind control he exercised over
these kids to make them think he was adult and this was normal -- well,
allegedly, sure.

But here`s more of Sandusky`s interview with Costas on "Rock Center"
last night, where Bob asked the former coach if he was attracted to young
boys. This is really bizarre. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB COSTAS, NBC SPORTS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys, to
underage boys?

rMDNM_JERRY SANDUSKY, CHARGED WITH SEXUALLY ABUSING CHILDREN: Am I
sexually attracted to underage boys?

COSTAS: Yes.

SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted? No. No, I enjoy young people. I love
to be around them. I love to be around them. I -- I -- but, no, I`m not
sexually attracted to young boys.

COSTAS: How do you feel about what has happened to Penn State and to
Joe Paterno and to the Penn State football program, and your part in it?

SANDUSKY: How would you think that I would feel about a university
that I attended, about people that I`ve worked with, about people that I
care so much about? How do you think I would feel about it? I feel
horrible.

COSTAS: You feel horrible. Do you feel culpable?

SANDUSKY: I`m not sure I know what you mean.

COSTAS: Do you feel guilty?

SANDUSKY: Guilty?

COSTAS: Do you feel as if it`s your fault?

SANDUSKY: No, I don`t think it`s my fault. I have obviously played a
part in this.

COSTAS: How would you define the part you played? What are you
willing to concede that you`ve done that was wrong and you wish you had not
done it?

SANDUSKY: Well, in retrospect, I -- you know, I shouldn`t have
showered with those kids. So...

COSTAS: That`s it?

SANDUSKY: Yes, well, that`s that`s what hits me the most.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Michael, you`re an attorney, as well as a broadcaster, so
will this show up in court, what we just saw with Bob Costas and Jerry
Sandusky?

SMERCONISH: Well, you can rest assured the prosecution is going to
attempt to have it shown in court.

Sandusky`s got a Fifth Amendment right and may try and keep it out.
Of course, nothing prevents him from testifying in his own behalf.

Chris, can I call your attention to something?

MATTHEWS: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Because on the sexual attraction question that Bob Costas
asked, do you know the tic? Do you notice the tell, where Sandusky, at
least in my opinion, needed a moment to think about it, and, therefore,
only time in the interview he repeated the question?

If you were to ask me, the if I were to ask you if you have a sexual
attraction to young boys, my hunch is, you would immediately say, are you
blanking me, and you would instantaneously respond.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMERCONISH: He had to think that over. He needed to repeat that
question before he offered an explanation. Devastating, as I said, at the
outset.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that might be his potential defense, that he
has this drive that he can`t control?

SMERCONISH: Not based on what he just said, because that would be at
odds with the pretty much blanket denial that he just issued.

Look, "The New York Times" reported today that 10 more have now come
out of the woodwork. Their lawyer -- Sandusky`s lawyer is trying to say
they`re looking for a payday.

I think there`s strength in numbers. I think that there are a lot of
individuals who were scared to death to speak up who now are seeing a
comfort level in growing the number and speaking and telling what happened.

MATTHEWS: Are we going to get a change of venue here of some kind,
the legal term, I`m not sure, but where you move the trial to somewhere
else besides even the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to get a fair trial for
this crime?

SMERCONISH: Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: No, seriously. Do you think...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Well, I don`t know where you could go. Honestly, you
could move within the commonwealth, but you know what this is like. This
is leading every newscast, every newspaper, every radio broadcast.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMERCONISH: You would be hard-pressed to come up with a Pennsylvania
county where you could go.

MATTHEWS: You know, people of Pennsylvania, especially Central
Pennsylvania, you get outside the big urban areas, Penn State is the heart
of Pennsylvania.

And it`s not just the football team. It`s where you go, regular
people go to college. I mean, my mother went there part-time. My niece
went there. My brother Charlie went there. So many people in Pennsylvania
have relatives, close family, core family members who went to that school
and take honor from that degree. And they should.

I don`t know how we`re going to get past this in the short run,
Michael. What are we going to do about it? How do we restore the name of
that wonderful university?

SMERCONISH: Well, we have got to also restore what`s going on in
Pennsylvania generally.

I have written about the subject that we need a change in the law that
obligates anyone who`s in the loop on the abuse of children to drop the
dime. Doesn`t matter that you go to your supervisor. Shouldn`t matter if
you`re within an institution. You must report. Delaware has that -- 17
other states have it. Pennsylvania needs to have it.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Thank you, Michael Smerconish. Thank you so much for your heart and
your mind.

SMERCONISH: OK.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Michele Bachmann`s new Web video is so
devastating for her Republican rivals, it`s as if she`s done the
president`s dirty work for them. And I mean it. Check out the "Sideshow"
coming up next. This is tough business.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, surprise attack. It`s that time in the campaign, well, for
2012 Republican candidate Michele Bachmann, and with that comes an
interesting new ad. If you thought the initial sympathy Bachmann expressed
for Perry after his mid-debate brain freeze was genuine, this ad might have
you giving that a second thought.

Let`s take a look at Michele Bachmann on attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MICHELE BACHMANN CAMPAIGN AD)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that abortion
should be safe and legal in this country.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It ultimately gets down to a
choice that that family or that mother has to make.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your policy towards Iran is, if they want to
develop a nuclear weapon, that`s their right?

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why wouldn`t it be
natural if they might want a weapon?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you say that we
shouldn`t education children who have come into our state for no other
reason than they have been brought there, I don`t think you have a heart.

CAIN: China has indicated that they are trying to develop nuclear
capabilities.

ROMNEY: You did support an individual mandate?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, sir.

ROMNEY: Oh, OK. That`s what I`m saying. We got the idea from you
and the Heritage Foundation.

PERRY: Commerce, education, and the -- oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Here`s a question. Don`t you think tacking on a clip
of Bachmann`s campaign crazy talk could give Obama camp`s a few ad ideas?

And there still hasn`t been a single vote cast for the 2012
presidential race, but there`s one thing we have certainly seen no shortage
of: debates. They started up in May and we have already reached almost a
dozen GOP face-offs so far.

Let`s take a look at how late-night host David Letterman takes on the
debate overload, as well as the complaint that candidates aren`t given an
equal amount of speaking time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": If we have
to sit through any more of these Republican debates, I`m ready for a
dictatorship. Last week, they debated about the economy. This week, it`s
foreign policy. Next week, next week, movie trivia.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Ron Paul is saying he wasn`t treated fairly by the
organizers of the debate. I pulled the tape. You be the judge.

ANNOUNCER: At the South Carolina Republican debate, CBS showed its
bias against Ron Paul by placing his podium next to the ice machine.

(LAUGHTER)

ANNOUNCER: Hang in there, Congressman.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The question is when they manage to clear the right-wing
field for a single anti-Romney candidate. That`s when it`s going to get
interesting, one guy or one woman against Romney. Then we will see a
decision.

Finally, top Republicans in Congress have made no secret that their
top goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Now that Mr. Obama,
-- now he says he has a kindred spirit in the former president. Which one?
Hint: He`s a favorite of mine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, President
Kennedy used to say that after he took office, what surprised him most
about Washington was finding out that things were just as bad as he`d been
saying they were.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can relate.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: When you have got the top Republican in the Senate saying that
his party`s number-one priority isn`t putting people back to work, isn`t
trying to fix the economy, but is to try to defeat me, you have got a sense
that things in Washington aren`t really on the level.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: President Kennedy.

And today one of Obama`s potential GOP opponents, Rick Perry, unveiled
a plan to overhaul Washington, part of which includes a stipulation to
reduce congressmen to part-time employees, part-time employees, you know,
like governor of Texas? Hmm.

Up next, the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker begins
today. It seems that between Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and
Florida`s Rick Scott, there are some unpopular high-profile first-term
Republican governors, which should help President Obama`s reelection
chances in those three key states. And that`s ahead, a big chance for
Obama coming here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Another day in the doldrums, the Dow Jones industrials adding 17
points, the S&P 500 picking up six. The Nasdaq surged 29. No big
headlines, really, out of Europe, and mildly upbeat economic reports here
at home giving us another quiet day.

We did get word that Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will meet with
Italy`s two largest political parties to talk about sacrifices needed to
bring them back from the brink of economic collapse.

Here in the U.S., retail sales gained in October, with auto sales
looking particularly strong. And consumer spending accelerated, but at the
expense of household savings. Producer prices fell more than expected,
especially on gasoline and food items. And Northeast manufacturing is
picking up a bit, reversing five straight months of declines.

As for stocks, Wal-Mart sagged after profits came in slightly lower
than expected, despite increasing sales. And Dell is slumping after-hours
on weaker-than-expected earnings delivered after the closing bell.

And that`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- now
back to Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Anger seems to be motivating -- the motivating factor and continuing
theme driving elections this year, don`t you think? And today marks the
start of an effort to try to recall Wisconsin`s Republican Governor Scott
Walker. Walker has taken hits for his effort to end collective bargaining
rights for public employees in his state.

Well, last week, it was Governor John Kasich who received a black eye
when his anti-union law was defeated soundly in Wisconsin. By the way,
also, Walker in Wisconsin, Kasich in Ohio, and Rick Scott in Florida are
now three new and very unpopular Republican governors. And their
unpopularity could give a boost to President Obama`s campaign in all three
important states.

Ed Rollins is a former campaign manager for presidential candidate
Michele Bachmann and the former political director for President Reagan in
`84. And Ron Reagan is a political commentator and author.

Let me start with Ed Rollins.

These states, just to get them clear -- our late great colleague Tim
Russert used to always talk about Ohio. Ohio -- Ohio this year would be
basically Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: If Obama holds all three, he wins, right?

ROLLINS: Sure. If we -- as Republicans, if we lose Florida or Ohio,
the game is over. We can`t put 270 together. So those are critical.

MATTHEWS: You have never won an election, your party, without Ohio.

ROLLINS: We have never won an election.

Florida now is the key for us also. So my sense is that those are the
real battlegrounds.

MATTHEWS: Well, take a look here.

Ron, take a look at this. According to a poll from the conservative
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Scott Walker, the Republican governor,
is underwater with an approval rating of just 42 percent, while 56 percent
disapprove of the job he`s doing out there.

Ohio Governor John Kasich -- I know him pretty well -- is suffering
according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. He`s down to 36 percent approval
of his job he`s been doing as governor -- 51 percent disapprove of him.
And the Quinnipiac poll also shows the Florida governor, Rick Scott -- I
don`t like that guy much -- isn`t any more popular. He`s at 36 percent
approval rating, while 50 percent disapprove of him.

Some of these people are just clearly unlikable, starting with Rick
Scott. But I do wonder about Kasich, whether he can come back in that
critical state of Ohio.

Do you buy this argument that the governor being unpopular a year out
can bring down his party when the presidential race occurs next November?

RON REAGAN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that might not be -- there
might not be the exact connection between the governor and the presidential
race here.

But I think that these governors are symbolic of a Republican Party
that has overreached drastically since 2010. And what they have done in
overreaching is tip their hand. People who voted for Scott Walker for
governor in Wisconsin weren`t voting for an end to collective bargaining
rights. They got that, though, with Scott Walker.

And think about the fact that Walker and Kasich, they`ve been in office for
only 10 months. It`s one thing to have buyer`s remorse after three years
where you think, jeez, the guy isn`t doing what I thought he was going to
do. But 10 months in to be wanting a recall, and the Wisconsin recall
looks like it might really happen, like they`ve really got a chance there.
There`s got to be some awfully unhappy people in Wisconsin who think, this
isn`t what we voted for, this isn`t the agenda we wanted.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Well, Walker may be worried -- well, Walker
may be worried out in Wisconsin. Look at this ad he`s aired right now,
starting last night, during the Green Bay Packers` game last night. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: I`m committed to working together
to create more jobs, to improve our schools, and to protect our seniors.
You know, Wisconsin`s best days are yet to come. It won`t happen
overnight, but we are on our way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I love the football music, Ed Rollins. I`m not sure it`s
going to work.

Here`s my question to you: why do Republicans, and maybe Democrats
can do the same thing, you can enlighten me, they get elected because
people are ticked off at the other party. They don`t like high tax. They
don`t like big government.

So, they go in and settle old scores against the unions. That`s
really what they do. They settle -- the public doesn`t have a score to
settle, it`s the Republican professionals that do.

ED ROLLINS, FORMER CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, REAGAN-BUSH `84: I think all
of these governors came in with very serious budget problems, and
obviously, one of the ways they thought they could resolve them, they had
lit a fuse, they have energized the other side. I don`t concede in any
way, shape, or form that these three governors are going to be, by a year
from now, in desperate shape.

Scott is probably the first one to have the big test. But --

MATTHEWS: He`s not going to get re-elected, is he? That guy? He`s
a troll. He`s a troll.

ROLLINS: He was an upset -- he was an upset winner this time. But
John Kasich is one of the toughest candidates, as you should remember.

MATTHEWS: I like him.

ROLLINS: In 1982, I can tell you when I was the White House
political director, John Kasich somehow got into my office as a candidate,
and I said, who are you? And he said, I`m running against some Democrat.
And the year, we lost 26 seats, he beat a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: `82.

ROLLINS: `82.

MATTHEWS: You mean that campaign I was involved in?

ROLLINS: That campaign you were involved. He is a very tough
candidate. He was not expected to win in Ohio. He came back, he won big.

So my sense is they`ve got their guards up, they know they`re in a
battle. And -- but as far as the presidential race, you know, tough
battles sometimes make your troops stronger and we`ll see.

MATTHEWS: You know what, Ron, out in California, there where you
live, it seems to me, you saw the same exact thing, overkill. A popular
guy like Arnold Schwarzenegger gets elected in a roll call, comes in as Mr.
Clean. First thing he does is target -- I`m going to get the firefighters,
public employees. I`m going to get the nurses, you know? I`m going to get
the teachers.

The public said, no way, Jose, you`re not getting any of that. He
misread completely his mandate, which was clean up government. His way of
cleaning up was going after employees, the middle-income employees.

REAGAN: Yes, a lot of these Republicans, I think they get into rooms
together and start talking to one another, and they imagine that the public
themselves thinks the biggest problem America faces is, you know, public
school kindergartner teachers and firemen and things like that.

And it`s just not true. Public school kindergartner teachers and
firemen are people`s neighbors. They know them. They don`t think that
they`re bad people.

And the Republicans have completely whiffed on that one.

MATTHEWS: But don`t you think he should have known about
kindergartner cops, at least, didn`t he play one?

Anyway, how does this affect the presidential race? A poll from the
conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute shows that Obama beats
Romney by 11 point outs there. What do you make of that in Wisconsin?

ROLLINS: Well, it`s going to be a tough state. There`s a big Senate
race there too with Tommy Thompson, who`s going to be our candidate. You
know, a year`s a long time ago. I don`t care what the polls --

MATTHEWS: Yes. But the economy can`t get any worse. He`s doing OK.

Here`s Obama in the Quinnipiac head to head matchups in Ohio, Obama
is up three over Romney. That`s not a lot, but it`s something. It`s a
statistical dead heat. The same Quinnipiac poll also shows Obama in a
statistical heat in Florida. He`s trailing Romney by three down there.

What do you make? He`s in the running in all three states when we
have a 9 percent unemployment rate. Suppose it drops to 8. He walks.

ROLLINS: No, he doesn`t walk. He`s an incumbent president that`s
made a lot of promises he hasn`t live up to. At the end of the day, and I
put Schwarzenegger totally out of the camp, he never really was a
Republican, at least not like these guys. And I think at the end of the
day, he made some foolish mistakes.

These guys are pretty smart guys. Once again, I`m not sure about
Scott. I don`t know him well.

MATTHEWS: Yes, step away from him.

ROLLINS: The other two are going to be tough. And Florida is a
state we can win without the governor. The other states we really need a
governor.

MATTHEWS: OK. Serious business here. Thank you, Ed Rollins, buddy.

And thank you, Ron Reagan, as always.

REAGAIN: You bet.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she`s speaking
to her constituents for the first time now, of course, of what she went
through. We`re going to hear the congresswoman in her own words, next.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, for the first time, we`re hearing the voice of
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound
who her head last January, recorded a message for her constituents out in
Arizona.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: Hello. This is Gabby
Giffords. I miss you. I miss Tucson. The mountains, blue skies, even the
heat. I`m getting stronger. I`m getting better. It`s been a hard year --
for all of us.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Great doctors. Anyway, the message was recorded last week
and released today on the congresswoman`s Facebook page. Giffords`
husband, Mark Kelly, by the way says that she would like to run for re-
election if her health continues to improve.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Affordable Care
Act is working. They call it Obamacare. I do care. That`s right. The
question is: why don`t you care?

Some of these folks making central to their campaign pledge to make
sure that 30 million people don`t have health insurance. What kind of
inspiring message is that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was the president on October 4th, defending what the Republicans
have derisively dubbed Obamacare -- and warning them that that vowing to
repeal health care reform isn`t necessarily a recipe for winning elections.

Well, now, the highest court in the country will decide on the
constitutionality of President Obama`s signature domestic accomplishment.
And the decision will likely come down in June of next year, five months
before our presidential election.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is vice provost for Global Initiatives at the
University of Pennsylvania. He`s a senior fellow at the Center of American
Progress as well. He worked on the health care reform for the Obama
administration from January of `09 to January this year.

Zeke, thank you very much for joining us.

And, you know, we`ve got a couple of simple questions here. One of
them is, if the Supreme Court wipes out the individual mandate that makes
young people, healthy people, pay some kind of health insurance premium --
will that kill the financing structure of the Obama bill?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, it does what
-- it puts it into a death spiral. Plenty of places have tried to have
exchanges where people go and buy insurance without a mandate, voluntary.

And what you end up happening is that healthy people don`t go in
until they get sick and that leads to a debt spiral because costs just
rise, because only sick get insurance, and it makes them very unstable.
All have failed.

MATTHEWS: Yes. So, it`s just like Social Security. You know, the
idea of making it mandatory is people who don`t feel like saving or can`t
save are forced to save by taxing them. Thereby, they are forced to take
responsibility for their retirement years.

In this case, you`re saying to people, OK, you`re young and healthy.
Nothing is going to hurt you. You think you`re bulletproof.

Well, some day, you`re going to be old. We can bet on that, and some
day you`ll probably have a health challenge. We can bet on that, so you
better start ponying up now.

Isn`t that the principle?

EMANUEL: That is the principle. And let`s remember that the
individual mandate which Republicans are now attacking as unconstitutional
was a Republican idea. It`s not an idea that President Obama came up with
himself. I mean, it`s an idea the Republicans have been pushing for nearly
two decades.

MATTHEWS: Well, why do you allow himself to get painted as a lefty,
as a socialist? I can tell you, I can make the Republican argument for
exactly what he did.

Why should people be free loaders? Why should people go to E.R. and
live off basically the premiums other people pay? Why don`t you make
everybody do their share and take responsibility for their own health?

If you get run over on a car somewhere, or on a highway somewhere,
you want somebody to come with an ambulance and you want somebody to take
care of you in a hospital. Who is going to care for it? It`s about time
you pay for it. That sounds like a Republican self-reliant argument.

Why doesn`t Obama sell it that way?

EMANUEL: Well, I actually think, Chris -- Chris, it`s a bipartisan
argument.

MATTHEWS: OK.

EMANUEL: Everybody believes we should all be responsible and do what
we can. That`s the heart and soul of the individual mandate. And it is a
system where we all share in contributing to the insurance pool, knowing
that over time, over the course of our lifetime, we will use that insurance
and use health care. So, it`s an argument that everyone can share in.

And the Republicans raised it and had this very good idea, and the
Democrats put it into action.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

EMANUEL: And once they put it into action, they are calling foul.

MATTHEWS: Well, Zeke, here`s the bad news. The Kaiser Family
Foundation health tracking poll shows that 51 percent view the health bill
unfavorable, and that`s a growing trend. Just 34 percent unfavorable.

Has this been bad P.R. or the public is just so against any
government mandate, being told to do anything, that they are so naturally
resistant? What caused these numbers to go the wrong direction for the
president, and you?

EMANUEL: First of all, I think -- almost after every piece of major
legislation in American history, you have a period of turmoil, where people
aren`t sure. People are upset about it. That was true after Social
Security, true after Medicare and Medicaid.

As they get experience with the law, I think they`re going to find it
much more beneficial and support is going to grow. That`s what`s actually
happened in Massachusetts. Support in Massachusetts for their mandate has
grown over time.

I will say we have a very good bill. It`s not perfect, but it`s very
good, and I do think that the administration hasn`t done a great job of
getting out the message about why it`s important. Millions of people have
already benefited. Seniors who have had some of their drug costs defrayed.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

EMANUEL: A million young people who have been able to go on to their
parent`s health insurance plan and this is even before the big changes in
the health care reform bill go into place.

In my view, the right time scale for assessing this health care
reform is going to be a decade. By 2020, are we going to have a better
health care system?

MATTHEWS: If we have, and if we still have the program by then. By
the way, the two best arguments are, keeping your young adult children
under your health care before they got themselves organized in life, which
everybody who is a parent understands.

EMANUEL: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I`ve got three kids in their 20s.

And the other is you can`t deal with the pre-existing condition
protection unless everybody kicks in. That`s how you sell.

EMANUEL: Correct.

MATTHEWS: Take the good stuff and sell the other stuff with it.

Anyway, thank you, Ezekiel Emanuel for coming back on the program.
We`ll have you back a lot.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the two big problems
facing Republicans during this presidential election campaign, and they are
pretty obvious in your face. Wait until you hear what`s wrong with the
Republicans. It`s why they have a ridiculous selection process rights now
with such a clown show going on.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

The utter confusion in the Republican presidential nominating process
results from two discernible facts. One, they hate. That`s the simplest
explanation of the disastrous course of this selection process. They hate
so much they are not in the mood to fall in love with a candidate or even
falling behind someone. Their brains racked by -- as they are by hatred,
they lack the like mode. They are in no mood they go around looking for a
politician they like. The hating is so much more satisfying.

The second factor: they aren`t respecting experience. One after
another, the candidates in the right had stepped forward. Each has his or
her time in the limelight. Yet out there in the audition stage, one after
another, has showed they don`t have the stuff.

Embarrassed by the exposure, they have shrunk back into the shadows.
And so, the Republicans have a problem. They are consumed by hate, so
consumed they can`t think positively of whom they may want to lead them.
They just can`t change the subject from opposition to government.

And they can`t get over the fact that to govern this country requires
some experience in government, some knowledge of how you lead a government.

I`m reminded often these days of how superior the competition was
once for the American presidency. Say what you will about Richard Nixon --
when he and Jack Kennedy debated back in 1960, the American people were
proud of what they were watching. They were proud of the choice they would
have to make and were allowed to make.

What the heck has happened to our country we`re now being asked to
consider the presidential credentials of political walk-ons like Rick
Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann? The best question the next moderator
could ask now looms: Are you people serious? Is the Republican Party
serious?

Are we really going to get down for the entire season of the
presidential selection of the two most memorable phrases being 9-9-9 and
"oops"?

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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