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updated 11/17/2011 9:57:08 AM ET 2011-11-17T14:57:08

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Hampton Pearson, David Corn, Ed Rendell, Buzz Bissinger, Robin Wright, Steve Clemons, Joan Walsh, John Feehery

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Freddie and friend.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York. Leading off
tonight: Newt and the "L" word -- lobbyist. Donald Trump, Michele
Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, each has had his or her chance as the
GOP flavor of the month. Now here comes Newt Gingrich.

Today we learned from Bloomberg News that Gingrich was paid up to $1.8
million by Freddie Mac, that quasi-government mortgage company Newt himself
loves to trash, hired, Freddie Mac officials say, to build bridges of love
to Republicans bent on destroying Freddie. In other words, to lobby.
Welcome to front-runner status, Newt. You`ve been caught.

Plus, how many blunders can one party take? From Rick Perry`s "oops"
to Herman Cain`s head-scratching on Libya, to Michele Bachmann on, well,
almost everything, looking foolish has become the dress code in this
Republican race. And what does that say about a party that most resembles
now a clown car from the best days of Barnum & Bailey?

Also, Penn State -- what happened when Mike McQueary allegedly saw
Jerry Sandusky violate a child? Well, he told the grand jury he left
immediately. Now he says he stopped it and called the police. If his
credibility is questioned, how will that affect the prosecution?

And it`s clear the Republicans can`t touch President Obama on foreign
policy, so their new shiny object is Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Some
of them want to bomb Iran. But have they even thought what the
consequences would be?

Finally, which Republican candidate said in New Hampshire that he
doesn`t care what the rest of the country thinks or feels? That`s in the
"Sideshow."

We start with Newt Gingrich. Joan Walsh is editor-at-large for
Salon.com and David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones"
and an MSNBC political analyst.

It was one of the most ridiculous answers at last week`s CNBC
Republican debate. Asked about his ties to Freddie Mac, Newt Gingrich said
they paid him to offer advice, quote, "as an historian."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I
offered advice. And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said
to me, We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and
have no record of paying back anything, but that`s what the government
wants us to do, is, I said to them at the time, This is a bubble. This is
insane. This is impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. It seems like to pay those Tiffany bills, he`s been
busy out there for Freddie Mac. Today Bloomberg reported that Freddie Mac
executives dispute Gingrich`s assertion that he warned them about the
bubble coming. According to Bloomberg, quote, "None of the former Freddie
Mac officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Gingrich even
raised the issue of the housing bubble or was critical of Freddie Mac`s
business model."

Well, what was Gingrich paid to do? According to two former
executives, quote, "Gingrich was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill
Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company`s public-
private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to
dismantle it. He was expected to provide written material that could be
circulated among free market conservatives in Congress and outside
organizations."

Well, the price tag for his services, according to Bloomberg, was
between $1.6 million and $1.8 million over an eight-year span.

Joan, it seems to me that he`s doing what all big shots get paid to
do. They get paid to sit in law firms or sit in consulting firms or PR
firms, whatever they`re called at the time, to basically oversee a lobbying
campaign. They`re the ones that send the little pawns up on Capitol Hill
to make the contacts. They`re the ones that know where the action is, know
what will sell and write the talking points. They are, in fact, running
the lobbying campaign.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Well, right. And I think he`s trying to make
a distinction that lobbying really means just going and talking yourself,
buttonholing a legislator, going and trading on your connections with
individual congresspeople. But that`s really not the whole story.

And in fact, what he did was trade on his relationships and trade on
his status as a great free market person, which he`s not, to create these
talking parents and to create this campaign to say, Hands off Freddie. And
I think it`s a ridiculous distinction to say that`s not lobbying. Today, I
believe he told a reporter it was "strategic advice," so...

MATTHEWS: Right. That`s the word.

WALSH: Strategic advice from an historian. OK, thanks, Newt. What`s
next?

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s got to be Houdini to get out of this one. He
may be Houdini. Here -- here, David, let`s take a look -- here`s
Congressman Barney Frank, one of my favorites. He appeared on Martin
Bashir`s show this afternoon, said Gingrich was a lobbyist for Freddie Mac.
He said worse. Let`s listen to Barney Frank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Two "L" words apply to Newt,
lobbyist and liar. Mr. Gingrich was reprimanded by the House for lying.
He has a history of doing that. And this nonsense -- this is nonsense that
he was being paid $1.6 million and maybe more to talk about history, to
talk about the transcontinental railroads.

He was clearly there as a lobbyist. And again, he kind of slipped and
acknowledged that when he said to justify that large amount of money, After
all, I`d been speaker of the House. You don`t enhance your academic
credentials by having been speaker. What you enhance is your value as a
lobbyist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I was just thinking, if you work for Freddie Mac, you must
be having a hard time. Who should we hire, Oh, (INAUDIBLE) Michael
Beschloss? Should we hire David McCullough?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Oh, why don`t we...

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: David (SIC)
Brinkley (INAUDIBLE) David!

MATTHEWS: Why don`t we get Newt Gingrich to be house historian on
housing? I never heard a housing historian. Clearly, he`s the lobbyist-
in-chief.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. Here`s a guy -- and this is where
it`s really evil. Well, I don`t want to overstate that until we get fully
to the bottom of this, but I think it`s like that. Here`s a guy who`s made
a lot of points the last couple months blasting the Democrats, Dodd and
Frank, saying they both ought to be in prison, basically -- in fact, he
said that...

CORN: Right.

WALSH: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... for, basically, coddling Freddie Mac. Now it turns out
he`s their chief lobbyist, chief coddler.

CORN: Yes, this -- this is...

MATTHEWS: How can you be that dishonest?

CORN: Chris, you`ve been around the block a few times. This is 100
percent Newt Gingrich. This is his pattern. You come up with slippery
denials about your own behavior while you throw bombs at the other side,
even for doing what you yourself have done. Just go back to the Clinton
impeachment crusade. I mean, it`s one of the biggest dodges in town to
say, I`m not a lobbyist and...

MATTHEWS: You mean carrying on an affair with somebody who works on
the House staff below you at the same time you`re going after a president
for doing something like that in the White House?

CORN: Yes, that comes to mind.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: I mean, this is what -- so he`s a serial fibber, and you saw
that when he said, I was a historian. That is patently absurd. And the
fact that we even have to parse it or analyze that remark for more than a
nanosecond, you know, shows that our political culture is a little bit
askew. He should be laughed out of town...

MATTHEWS: OK.

WALSH: Right.

CORN: ... as he should have been laughed out of town many times in
the past few decades...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s catch some of...

CORN: ... for those sort of remarks.

MATTHEWS: ... his history -- we could all be historians on Newt
today. We do remember this. Here in 2008, he`s on "The O`Reilly Factor"
talking about the housing meltdown. Let`s listen to what he said then. By
the way, this is the classic (INAUDIBLE) he`s indicting the Democrats for
doing...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... what it turns out he was doing himself, looking out for
Freddie Mac`s interests. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: And what you have today is that the rich in Wall Street and
the powerful of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had so many politicians beholden
to them that, in fact, nobody was going to check them. And so they got
away with things that were absolute baloney, and it`s a tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s not a human being, he`s a gaseous state. Isn`t he?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, Joan, this is like...

WALSH: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... a gaseous state around the world. I mean, this is
Newt-ism. This is -- how can you accuse the Democrats of the very thing
you were paid a couple million bucks to do, which is look out for Freddie
Mac?

WALSH: I mean, literally! Literally, listening to that. I mean, you
know, there`s also the clip -- I think it was in an October 11 debate --
where he actually said -- Who should go to jail, well, Barney Frank should
go to jail because of -- and Democrats and their relationship with Freddie
Mac. That he can say that knowing that he`s taken money, almost $2
million, from Freddie Mac -- I mean, honestly -- David, I agree with you.
We should have seen this coming. But I find this shocking, and I didn`t
think I was capable of being shocked by Newt.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: I think it`s pathological. I mean, I know that`s a big word
and I`m not trying to hype it here. But this -- you know, you can go
through 30 years of his statements -- and actually, we did that at "Mother
Jones" a couple weeks ago. I should put that story back up again on the
home page.

WALSH: Right.

CORN: But you can find examples of this again and again and again.
It`s not a slip-up. This is an M.O., his modus operandi, for Newt
Gingrich.

And (INAUDIBLE) I called someone at Freddie Mac when his story line
first came out, and the guy just started laughing at me. He goes, Why do
you guys even believe that or talk about it for a moment? He was paid the
same way we paid all politicians, to be in our pocket and to make us look
good.

WALSH: Literally.

CORN: It`s that simple.

MATTHEWS: OK, I think you were very excellent there in ripping the
scab off the reprimand he got as head of one branch of government, as
speaker of the House. And now he pretends to be a candidate -- and I think
he does pretend to be a candidate -- for head of another branch, the
executive branch.

How can you go from being kicked off of one branch and grabbing onto
the other? I don`t get it.

But I want to remind everybody about something worse than all his
flip-flops -- we may get to that in a second. But let me get to something
that`s classic Newt. Remember, Joan, when he blamed the Democrats for
Susan Smith`s killing of her kids?

WALSH: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: Return to that day...

WALSH: Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: ... of yesterday. What does that tell you about a
politician? He`s not a normal politician who does that stuff.

WALSH: No. It was just -- it was abominable. It was unbelievable.
This woman, obviously disturbed, first she lied and said a black man
carjacked her and killed her kids. Then it was found that she did it
herself. And Newt said -- he literally said -- it was on the eve of the
`94 mid-terms -- that the only way to stop behavior like this was to vote
Republican.

He said that the Democrats had created this culture of corruption and
law-breaking and families disintegrating. And reporters came back to him
and said, Is that what you`re saying? Are you really saying Republicans
can stop that? He said, Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WALSH: So this is, again...

MATTHEWS: He locked in.

WALSH: ... this kind of projection.

MATTHEWS: OK, now with that leitmotif, with that background, I want
you to watch this little SOT here, a little bit of tape here, on his flip-
flops. Let`s watch Newt because (INAUDIBLE) these flip-flops not as flip-
flops but as really dishonesty. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I believe all of us -- and this is going to be a big
debate. I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health
care. I think the idea that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You agree with Mitt Romney on this point?

GINGRICH: Well, I agree all of us have a responsibility to help pay
for health care. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most
libertarians relatively happy. I`ve said consistently we ought to have
some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond
or in some way, you indicate you`re going to be held accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that is the individual mandate, is it not?

GINGRICH: It`s a variation on it.

I am completely opposed to the "Obama care" mandate on individuals.
I`m against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is
fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you do about Libya?

GINGRICH: Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. The idea that we`re
confused about a man who has been an anti-American dictator since 1969 just
tells you how inept this administration is. They were very quick to jump
on Mubarak, who was their ally for 30 years, and they`re confused about
getting rid of Gadhafi. This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it.

I would not have intervened. I think there are a lot of other ways to
affect Gadhafi. I think there are a lot of allies in the region that we
could have worked with. I would not have used American and European
forces.

I don`t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than
left-wing social engineering. I don`t think imposing radical change from
the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.

I made a mistake. And I called Paul Ryan today, who is a very close
personal friend, and I said that. The fact is that I have supported what
Ryan`s tried to do in the budget.

Any ad which quotes that I said on Sunday is a falsehood because I
have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: David, what we`re watching here is not someone who changes
his mind, but we`re watching a whirling dervish of dishonesty. He spins
and spins and spins, depending on the circumstance and the moment, and
grabs what he thinks is the higher ground in that moment. And he doesn`t
tell the truth about what he thinks because it`s the same person claiming
to think two different things in the same moment.

How can you believe a word this guy says as he runs for president?

CORN: Chris, I think -- you know, I`ve been in town almost as long as
you have. If you had to name the most situational politician we`ve ever
covered, Newt would certainly be at the top of that list. He`s not --
you`re right, he`s not a flip-flopper. He is a gyrator.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN: Following him gets you dizzy. You know -- you know, the word
spin, you know, in the dictionary, he should be next to it because he
never, ever stops.

WALSH: Right.

CORN: And he likes to position himself or depict himself as a grand,
big thinker of noble, grand, big thoughts. But if you actually, you know,
compare one to the next over the years, you see there`s no consistency.
And -- and inside, it`s like hollowness. It`s really whatever...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... is going to give him that edge at the moment, the
advantage. That`s what he goes for, and it doesn`t matter what he said 10
seconds earlier.

MATTHEWS: Joan, last thought.

WALSH: Well, I think this will really sink him because he and the
Republicans have succeed in demonizing Freddie Mac and making Freddie Mac
into an agent of socialism. So the idea that he took almost $2 million
from Freddie Mac -- he`s a liar. He`s a hypocrite. And I think he`s done
with the Tea Party.

MATTHEWS: Yes, join the pals (ph) that`s (ph) attacking Freddie Mac,
then get paid to defend them. What a brilliant...

WALSH: Unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: ... Washington game.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And now he`s been caught. This is the price of front-
runnership, Newt.

WALSH: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Joan Walsh. I had to have you two guys here. I
think it`s so great. You two guys are the best at understanding
Washington. Thank you, David Corn.

CORN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up -- and Joan.

WALSH: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: From Herman Cain`s brain freeze -- and that`s a nice phrase
for it -- this week to Rick Perry`s "oops" last week, to Michele Bachmann
on just about everything she tries to handle, how many blunders can a
political party stand and still stand up? And how damaging to the
Republican brand name are endless gaffes on everything from the important
to the hopeless?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the White House announced that President Obama will
be heading to New Hampshire next week. He`s going to talk about his jobs
plan, but there`s a bigger reason. Take a look at the new Bloomberg poll.
The president is now trailing Mitt Romney up in New Hampshire by 10 points.
And according to our NBC battleground map, New Hampshire is the only state
where John Kerry won in 2004 that`s now leaning Republican. Of course,
Kerry and Romney are both from neighboring Massachusetts and that counts,
but the president needs to shore up his support in the Granite State.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Republican candidates have been
the butt of many jokes this year because of the long list of gaffes and
awkward moments from the campaign trail. In an article in today`s "New
York Times" entitled "Flubs are rubbing some Republicans the wrong way" --
well, it quotes many Republicans who aren`t laughing about the multiple
missteps. Some Republicans are even asking whether or not these gaffes may
be ultimately damaging the Republican brand itself.

Ed Rendell is the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and an
MSNBC political analyst and John Feehery is a Republican strategist. Thank
you, gentlemen.

Governor, I have to ask you, do you think this is getting around, the
word`s getting around -- it used to be there was sort of the Republicans
were the "daddy party," if you will, the ones that -- We`re going to take
care of all the dangers facing the country. We`re the experts on foreign
policy. Don`t get in our way, you Democrats.

And now it seems like they`re just dicey on the subject. They don`t
seem to have any expert on foreign policy in the entire list of Republicans
running.

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOVERNOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s true,
Chris. If I were an independent voter or a moderate Republican, my head is
spinning. And I`m thinking, What in God`s name is this party up to? Is
this the best they`ve got?

But again, what happens once there`s a nominee is people focus not so
much on Republican and Democrat, they focus on the Republican nominee
versus the president. So they`ll have a time to recoup.

What I think the big problem is -- let`s assume for a second, Chris --
put yourself in Mitt Romney`s place. You`re the nominee going into the
convention. What do you do with these wackos at the convention? What do
you do with them?

MATTHEWS: What raw meat can you throw their way to make them think
you`re one of them?

RENDELL: Right, but how do you put Herman Cain and Rick Perry and
Michele Bachmann on the speaking program and hope to win the Philadelphia
suburbs?

MATTHEWS: Remember how they used to bring all the other candidates up
on the stage after you get the nomination?

RENDELL: If I were Mitt Romney...

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... conservative motley crew. Feehery, even you`re
laughing. Would you bring Sarah Palin up on the stage? Would you bring
Michele Bachmann, would you bring the whole gang of them up on the stage
and say, And here are my rivals, my excellent colleagues. Here they are
together to show you our intellectual force. Would you do that, John, or
would you keep them in the closet?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Of course, I`d bring them up.
And I`d strategically place them throughout the program so that they would
make the maximum amount of news that I wanted them to make at the time.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FEEHERY: You need to do that at any convention to unify the party.

And, you know, they speak -- the candidates that are running for
president speak for a lot of different constituencies within the Republican
Party.

I would say to the "New York Times" piece, it`s not the gaffes of a
few that define a party. It`s the philosophy of many. And the Republican
Party is by and large a conservative party, and we live in a conservative
country, and I will tell you, when it comes to where most people are on
foreign policy, most of the country is far more conservative from a foreign
policy standpoint than anybody in Washington in either the Democratic or
Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: OK.

So, Bush had a better record of catching bin Laden than Obama does,
right?

RENDELL: But, Chris, it`s even worse -- it`s even worse than that.
Chris, it`s even...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Well, wait, wait, wait. This election is not going to be
about Osama bin Laden. And you know that, Chris.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, it`s not about terrorism. It`s not about 9/11 anymore.
Oh, I forgot.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: This election is going to be about the economy.

MATTHEWS: I forgot that we don`t care about this.

Governor, I want you look at this so we could actually show the
problem area for Mr. Feehery. Peter Feaver, a former national security
official under George W. Bush says blunders on foreign policy are
particularly worrisome.

He told "The Times" -- quote -- "This is the core of the Republican
brand. You mess with it at your peril. It cuts directly to the essence of
the brand. Republicans should be concerned about this."

You don`t agree, John, right?

FEEHERY: Well, listen, what I think is that Mitt Romney or whoever
the nominee is going to have the foreign policy establishment, the
Republican foreign policy establishment behind them, and they are going to
support each other.

And I think that at the end of the day that brand on -- foreign policy
brand is going to be just fine.

MATTHEWS: You know, the other day, Governor, Herman Cain of all
people went up to see apparently Henry Kissinger. Doesn`t that show you
the gap in what they were and what they are?

RENDELL: It`s enormous.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s a hoot. The idea of those two people taking up the
same office space is unimaginable.

Your thoughts, Governor?

RENDELL: And the weakness in John`s position is these are the people
running for president in the Republican Party. They are not just some
local mayor or some county commissioner or a congressman here and there.
These are the -- supposedly the best and the brightest.

If I`m in the Philadelphia suburbs and I`m a moderate Republican, my
head is spinning. I`m saying, this can`t be true. This guy doesn`t know
about Libya. This guy can`t remember the departments he wants to get rid
of. This guy wants to bomb Iran after all we have been through.

MATTHEWS: OK. Here we go. Here we go, Governor. By the way, even
when you were mayor of our great city, you read the newspapers.

Let`s listen to some of them. And these guys don`t. Let`s listen to
some of the more notable blunders by some of the Republican candidates as
they have gone into the dangerous areas of American history and politics.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know there
was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We also know
that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until
slavery was no more in the United States, men like John Quincy Adams, who
would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You describe yourself as
a neoconservative then?

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not sure what you mean
by neoconservative. I`m a conservative yes. Neoconservative, labels
sometimes will put you in a box. I`m very conservative, but...

GREGORY: But you`re familiar with the neoconservative movement?

CAIN: I`m not familiar with the neoconservative movement. I`m
familiar with the conservative movement.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have gone from a
country that`s made great strides in issues of civil rights. I think we
all can be proud of that, and as we go forward, America needs to be about
freedom. It needs to be about freedom from overtaxation, freedom from
overlitigation, freedom from overregulation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I have to tell you, John Feehery, I have got to give
you a shot at this. John Quincy Adams was 6 years old at the writing of
the Declaration and the founding documents.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He was a brilliant kid, isn`t he? He was fighting slavery
at the age of 6.

What is she talking about? I -- the one thing when you`re a Philly
kid, and you go grow up -- Governor, you know this -- you can`t wait to get
down to Mount Vernon and you see the slave quarters. You go, wow, they had
slaves. Look, this is where they lived. This is really intriguing. They
actually had slaves.

And here`s Michele Bachmann coming along saying, you know, George
Washington and those guys, they were just killing themselves to get rid of
slavery.

What is she talking about? They all had slaves.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: John Quincy Adams was a fierce...

MATTHEWS: Was 6 years old at the time, 6 years old at the time.

FEEHERY: ... a fierce abolitionist. And he was his whole career.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Six years old.

FEEHERY: She was right about John Quincy Adams. He was a fierce
abolitionist.

MATTHEWS: Well, which of the founding fathers was fighting slavery?
Just name one. Founding fathers. What is she talking about?

FEEHERY: John Adams.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Thomas Jefferson had great concerns about slavery.

RENDELL: But he had slaves. He had slaves.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Of course he did.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: And George Washington had slaves.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: John, I want you to come up to Philadelphia. We have
something called the President`s House. It`s the first residence of George
Washington when he was president, when the capital was in Philadelphia, and
there are slave quarters in it.

FEEHERY: Well, listen I know my history.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, she doesn`t.

Anyway, you`re smarter than anybody running for president on your side
when it comes to history, Feehery.

RENDELL: I would vote for you.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And you were press secretary to the speaker.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You should have run for president.

FEEHERY: Well, maybe I will run for president then.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: This crowd -- this is upside-down world over there.

Anyway, thank you, Ed Rendell and John Feehery, once again for the
defense of the ignorant.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next, there is only one candidate who knows he has got a
chance to actually jump-start his campaign. He knows he has got to win in
one place. That`s Huntsman in New Hampshire. Let`s talk about it. The
trouble is he says he doesn`t need those other 49 states. That may be a
gaffe right {there.

That`s next in the "Sideshow." You`re watching HARDBALL, only on
MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, is GOP candidate Jon Huntsman putting too much focus on the
Granite State? Well, it`s no secret that the candidate has high hopes for
New Hampshire in a few months, but what about the rest of the country?
Well, apparently, Huntsman got a bit overzealous during his 100th New
Hampshire event yesterday when discussing the state`s importance to his
campaign.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This election in New
Hampshire is critically important. And I have a very small, very small
request of you. I just want your vote.

Now we need some people. We need a little groundswell and this is
where we`re going to get it, in New Hampshire. I don`t care what the rest
of the country thinks or feels. That`s not important. I do care about
what the people of New Hampshire feel, because this is important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "I don`t care what the rest of the country" -- wow.
Huntsman later said that he was speaking about the polls, meaning he`s
putting all his marbles on one make-or-break primary. In other words, he
was quoted correctly.

Finally, fans of "The Good Wife" know -- know that I made a debut on
the show, probably my only debut on that show. Let`s take a look at this
scene from that episode where Alan Cumming`s character, a political
consultant out in Chicago, gives me a scoop on his candidate, and his
candidate`s got skeletons in his closet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GOOD WIFE")

ALAN CUMMING, ACTOR: You know Robert Mulvey?

MATTHEWS: The ex-congressman, the one that flipped from Republican to
Democrat. I hear he`s looking for a campaign he can win.

CUMMING: Mickey represents him. And we want to offer you a story.

MATTHEWS: Really? You got a headline for me, too?

CUMMING: We have a picture. It`s not as bad as Anthony Weiner, but
in our opinion, it encapsulates the problems of the Facebook era candidate.

MATTHEWS: That`s him? That`s Robert Mulvey?

CUMMING: It is.

MATTHEWS: You want to hang a lantern on your problem?

CUMMING: Hang a lantern on what? This has nothing to do with
Mulvey`s policies. This has nothing to do with his morals.

MATTHEWS: Look, I`m fine. You want to give me something, give me
something. But why don`t you put the candidate on?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that was so much. Kathy, by the way, my wife, and I
love that show.

Anyway, up next, the Penn State scandal. Mike McQueary, the former
graduate assistant coach, now says he stopped Jerry Sandusky when he saw
him in the showers with that 10-year-old boy back in 2002. He says he also
went to police right then, but that`s not what the grand jury report says.
And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks losing ground in super thin trading, the Dow Jones industrials
skidding 190 points, the S&P 500 giving up 20, and the Nasdaq tumbling 46
point. Trading volume so thin, they were practically transparent, as
investors waited for more news out of Europe, and oil prices spiked to a
six-month high.

U.S. banks slumped late in the session on a Fitch report warning that
the industry could be facing more credit woes unless Europe really buckles
down on fixing its debt crisis. Oil prices topped $102 a barrel for the
first time since July on plans to reverse a Midwest pipeline to alleviate a
supply glut in Oklahoma.

Abercrombie & Fitch tumbled after a huge earnings miss that it blamed
on aggressive, but temporary promotional sales. And chipmaker Micron
bucked the downward trend with a big surge after winning a multibillion-
dollar antitrust lawsuit brought by Rambus Incorporated.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARMEN KETEYIAN, CBS NEWS: Do you have any idea when you think you
might be ready to talk?

MIKE MCQUEARY, ASSISTANT COACH, PENN STATE: This process has to play
out. I just don`t have anything else to say.

KETEYIAN: OK. And then just one last thing. Just describe your
emotions right now.

MCQUEARY: All over the place. Just kind of shaken.

KETEYIAN: Crazy?

MCQUEARY: Crazy. Yes.

KETEYIAN: You said what, like a...

MCQUEARY: Snow globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Snow globe.

Anyway, welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Penn State coach Mike
McQueary talking to CBS News yesterday.

According to the grand jury report, when McQueary witnessed a 10-year-
old boy being subjected to anal sex by Jerry Sandusky, he left the scene
and called his father, not the police.

But the Associated Press reports that last week McQueary e-mailed a
friend to say that, yes, he did stop the attack and, yes, he did call
authorities. Well, the e-mail reads -- quote -- "I did stop it, not
physically, but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room. I
did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in
charge of police. No one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my
shoes for those 30 to 45 seconds, trust me."

But did he call police? The grand jury report says Penn State
University police never questioned him and that his superiors didn`t
contact authorities or the town of State College itself police. They told
NBC News today they have no record of McQueary speaking to them, and the
Pennsylvania State Police won`t comment due to the ongoing investigation.

So no campus cop discussions, no town cop discussions, and no word on
any state police discussions.

So, for more on this and whether this key witness may now have a
credibility problem, let me bring in NBC`s top investigative reporter.
That`s Michael Isikoff, who is at Penn State itself. And Buzz Bissinger,
who writes for The Daily Beast and "Vanity Fair" and authored the
bestselling "Friday Night Lights."

Let`s go to Michael right now for the reporting right now for NBC.

Mike, where are we now? Has this guy lost his credibility because of
his odd statement here about having gone to the cops and having stopped
that, well -- in effect, it`s a rape, if not legally that`s the right term
-- penetration of this kid by this guy? Do we have any new reason to
question McQueary now one way or the other?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there`s certainly mounting
credibility questions about McQueary, but it`s important to remember that
there were going to be questions from McQueary from the get-go.

Even if you take the grand jury report as gospel and that that is
actually everything that McQueary testified to, he still has the problem of
he says he witnessed a 10-year-old boy being sexually assaulted in the
shower, and according to the grand jury report, he left immediately,
distraught. He didn`t intervene to stop a criminal act against a young boy
taking place in real time.

So I think that, you know, there are clearly discrepancies,
contradictions between what he says and what Schultz and Curley, the two
university officials, say, the ones who are charged in this case. But even
without this e-mail, there were going to be a lot of questions about Mike
McQueary and his -- and his actions here.

And it`s also worth pointing out, Chris, that, you know, there was
supposed to be a preliminary hearing tomorrow in this case, and it was the
government, the prosecutors that asked for the delay, not the defense. In
fact, the defense for Curley and Schultz say they are outraged by the
delay, they are ready to proceed, and it`s the government that`s asking for
the delay. That does sound a bit unusual.

MATTHEWS: You know, the scary thing here, Mike, and now Buzz, is the
graphic nature of what we were told in the grand jury report, a naked 10-
year-old boy up against a wall with a grownup behind him having sex with
him, just, I mean, penetrating him.

It`s an unimaginable scene, and here is McQueary saying something
quite human for once. He says, imagine being in my shoes for 30 to 45
seconds. I mean, it was just a moment he looked and probably looked away.
He certainly didn`t stop anything in 30 to 45 seconds. He didn`t seem to
call the police in 30 to 45 seconds. It looked like he just turned his
eyes away from a horrible scene and didn`t know what to do, and did nothing
really.

Go ahead, Buzz.

BUZZ BISSINGER, AUTHOR, "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS": You know, I have --
look, I have no doubt that McQueary saw a rape. I have absolutely no
doubt.

I would bet my life and the lives of the children`s that Jerry
Sandusky did what he`s alleged to have done. I believe that more than ever
on the basis of his interview, in which I thought he came across as
arrogant and despicable.

But whenever a witness has credibility problems, and the prosecution -
- someone should have been with that guy 24 hours a day, saying, Mike, you
don`t talk to anybody. You don`t e-mail anybody, because, if you do,
there`s going to be a credibility issue.

And we all know what defense attorneys...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BISSINGER: ... are paid for, to drive a truck through credibility
issues.

It just waters down the case.

I believe that McQueary is telling the truth, but it doesn`t help
because, frankly, all the charges against the victims are serious. There
are four that are not that serious. There are four that are serious. You
have McQueary who was an eyewitness to one.

The eyewitness to the other has dementia, so he`s not going to
testify.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I got you.

BISSINGER: The tragedy is to have a male eyewitness to a sexual
assault is very, very rare and important, and -- and I don`t want McQueary
to blow it with these e-mails and talking to people.

MATTHEWS: You think he did it on purpose to screw up his credibility
so he couldn`t be getting Sandusky in trouble? Maybe that`s too much of a
stretch, but it look like he`s done that.

BISSINGER: I don`t think he did it on purpose. I think he`s scared.
I think he doesn`t know which way to turn. I think -- well, he felt a lot
of shame.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

BISSINGER: I mean, the nation came down on him, including me. And I
think he felt a lot of shame, and he reached out to friends and he said,
look, you don`t know what happened.

But it is diametrically opposed to the grand jury report. He says he
stopped it, and the grand jury report he says it became immediately
distraught and left. He says he called the police, contacted the police.
Grand jury report says that didn`t happen.

The university official he spoke to was Schultz who is in charge of
the police. That washes out, but there are diametrically opposed stories.

MATTHEWS: Right.

BISSINGER: And we know what happens. Defense attorneys make
millions to go out

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Mike, go ahead here.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWQS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I
just want to point out that on the -- on the charge against Curley and
Schultz, it`s a perjury charge, and it rests on the credibility of McQueary
as opposed to Schultz and Curley.

So, you know, these credibility issues, regardless of what you think
about Sandusky right now and the likelihood or not that he committed the
act that he`s alleged to have committed, for the prosecution to sustain the
charges against Curley and Schultz, they have to -- to present McQueary as
a credible witness. And to have these e-mails out there contradicting his
sworn testimony and coming after his grand jury testimony, that`s a real
problem.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but a grownup jury, I hate to put that much faith in
a jury, but a jury can distinguish between a guy telling the truth about
somebody else`s horrible misbehavior, in fact, a felony, and doing
something that makes himself look better. I mean, a jury can understand
motive, can`t they, Mike? And why you`re honest about one thing and
dishonest about another?

ISIKOFF: I`m not saying the case is completely destroyed here, but
I`m just saying this presents serious problems. And it`s also worth
pointing out one other problem about the 2002 incident for the
prosecution`s point of view -- they don`t have the 10-year-old boy. They
have not been able to identify who it was --

MATTHEWS: No.

ISIKOFF: -- who was -- who was allegedly being assaulted here.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

ISIKOFF: And that`s a real -- that`s a real problem. Remember,
Sandusky`s lawyer says we think we found the kid, and we think he`s going
to be able to come forward and say this never happened. It didn`t happen
in the way it`s being described in the grand jury report. And if the
prosecutors don`t have the -- the boy who was allegedly -- who was
allegedly sexually assaulted, that`s another problem for their case.

MATTHEWS: Wow.

ISIKOFF: So also, there`s the court of public opinion, and I think
most people would agree, Jerry Sandusky hung himself in the court of public
opinion. But there`s still a court of law, and as you look at it

MATTHEWS: OK.

ISIKOFF: -- at least on the charges of the 2002 incident, there`s
problems.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael. And, Buzz, it`s so great to have you
on. Buzz Bissinger, one of the great reporters of our time.

Up next, the Republicans running for president can`t touch President
Obama on foreign policy because of his success in getting terrorists. But
maybe that`s why many of them are talking about a new war, attacking Iran,
with an act of war. That`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: A newly discovered audio tape from aboard Air Force One
should shed new lights on what happened in the movements after President
John Kennedy`s assassination in Dallas. The tape found in the estate of
Kennedy`s military aide, General Ted Clifton, includes more than 30 minutes
of never-before-heard material, including discussions about where Kennedy`s
body would be taken for autopsy. According to the "Associated Press," the
tape is on sale for half a million dollars, though copies will be made for
the archives, and the Kennedy Presidential Library.

By the way, tonight I`ll be on "The Colbert Report" to talk about my
book "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero," which describes, by the way, Kennedy --
the morning he was killed, asking why Dallas was so angrily right wing.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

At Saturday night`s Republican presidential debate, the candidates
made it clear that they see Iran`s attempt to build a nuclear weapon as an
opening to attack President Obama.

Let listen to Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president should have
built credible threat of military action and made it very clear that the
United States of America is willing in the final analysis, if necessary, to
take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

Look, one thing you can know, and that is if we re-elect Barack
Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if
you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What is Mitt Romney talking about? Has he or the any
other Republicans thought about the consequences of a U.S. attack on
another Muslim country?

Joining me is Robin Wright, senior fellow of the Woodrow Wilson
Center, and Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large for "The Atlantic"
magazine.

What`s fascinating, Robin, and you know the region, that in Israel we
had a poll on the other night that show the people of Israel who are most
endangered obviously by an Iranian military weapon, I mean, a nuclear
weapon, because obviously Ahmadinejad, to the extent he has any power in
that country, has threatened them with it, and they are clearly on the road
to doing something with nuclear material, probably building a weapon,
according to the International -- the nuclear commission -- so, here`s my -
- atomic energy commission.

Here`s my question, Robin: If the Israeli people are 50/50 on whether
to attack Iran, how can Mitt Romney be 100 percent even before he`s elected
that that`s the right way to go?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, first of all, I`m not
sure that even the American public. CBS did a poll just a week ago and
found 55 percent of Americans believe that diplomacy was the way out, and
only 15 percent of Americans thought that Iran is a military threat today.
So, I`m not sure it really reflects even what American sentiment is.

But the reality is that Mitt Romney talked about generalities, talked
about an option, a military option, that both the Obama administer and the
Bush administration before it have left on the table. And he offered no
specifics about what are you going to do, particularly given our experience
on -- in two neighboring countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, over the past 10
years.

And the fact that the military is not at all enthusiastic about a
military option on Iran, and is concerned that this is not just a one-
strike deal to eliminate some facilities, suspected facilities, but might
actually have long-term repercussions that haunt the United States in many
places in the Middle East and beyond.

MATTHEWS: But we are still calling it the Department of Defense,
aren`t we? We don`t call it the Department of War, do you? Don`t you have
to build case for U.S. interests -- not that we don`t have an interest in
our ally Israel, we have it as much with any other country. But isn`t the
Department of Defense responsible for defending the United States? Can we
just attack another country who hasn`t attacked us at all?

I`m sorry. I forgot we did it twice. Go ahead. Your thoughts.

WRIGHT: No, I agree with you completely. And I think this is where
the Pentagon is deeply concerned about what happens in the aftermath, and
what threats do you then have to begin defending against as well, because
Iran -- whether it`s through its allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon, allies in
Iraq, other factions in the region, begin to take actions that that you
also have to build up your forces for, this is much more complicated than
Mitt Romney made it sound.

MATTHEWS: Steve, I think the Israeli people are right now trying to
figure out the consequences of any action, even if the action is highly
successful in surgically removing the atomic threat from Iran for maybe
four or five, or whatever years. But they also are looking at what else
can happen. They`re not stupid.

Romney seems to be here. Let me just say he`s not a stupid man, but
stupidly making an assertion that we`re going to do something without even
weighing the consequences with a national security team. Your thoughts?

STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think he`s trying to turn
something that shouldn`t be a black-and-why binary choice into one. It`s
also important to note that the recently retired head of the Mossad in
Israel came out quite publicly, critical of other political leaders in
Israel and said that even in Israeli`s case, I kind of overt act against
Iran like this would be so against Israel`s interests. So what we see is
Romney and other of the candidates in the GOP in that debate pandering and
fear-mongering and actually trying to commit the United States to a course
that`s so utterly disruptive of our interest.

You mentioned the Department of Defense. I wish it was called the
"Department of Strategy" because what I keep waiting to here from any of
these candidates is a vision for how -- where they think the United States
needs to go. It`s this a knee-jerk reactive view.

And what Romney is doing is kind of renewed unilateralism. It`s this
pugnacious --

MATTHEWS: That`s what I think.

CLEMONS: -- you know, damn the rest of the world unilateralism, that
they think sells with the American public. But it`s very, very dangerous
to have this kind of commentary out there.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Robin, Churchill said there`s two kinds of
success -- initial and ultimate. Would that be an ultimately successful
policy for Israel even to go to war with Iran, go to war with them because
attacking them would be an attack -- an act of war?

WRIGHT: This is a much more complicated question. The fact is how
much knowledge does Iran have already? We don`t know the answer to that.
But if they are at a point that many people fear, there is a danger that
even a military strike would not eliminate the knowledge that they have
accumulated at this point. Remember that the shah reportedly wanted a
nuclear program as well. This is something that proud Persians going back
5,000 years feel as maybe important to their defense.

And so, the dynamics in terms of how this plays out are not just a
straightforward answer.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I get your -- it has a pride aspect to
it. I think that`s part of the thing.

Anyway, Robin Wright, thank you. Steve Clemons, the expertise we
needed.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the recklessness I believe Mitt
Romney is showing, by threatening -- in fact, saying he will attack Iran if
he gets into office.

Wow. What a statement. We`re going to war if he gets elected.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

It`s one thing to be clearly ignorant foreign policy, like when a
candidate has no earthly idea of the political movement that pushed for war
with Iraq, when the access of his knowledge of the Libyan war to overthrow
Gadhafi is just another note on an index card, something to be retrieved
from a pile of such cards, all lodged sloppily in his staff-induced memory.
That`s one thing.

Add those two together, the ignorance to the most prominent advocates
for one war, and an embarrassing display of confusion over another, and
it`s clear this guy, Herman Cain, is never going to get the O from the
American people to be its leader in the world.

But let me put to you a more dangerous case, if you can imagine it.
Suppose we had a Kennedy who threatened a new war before he`s elected, a
candidate so randy to be elected that he`s willing to threaten an act of
war between nations as a bid for political success. I give you Mitt
Romney, who now says that if you elect me -- to use his self-indulgent
phrase -- he proposed an act of war against Iran, presumably an attack on
its alleged nuclear facilities.

OK. You may like that proposition. It may well come to a day when
Israel takes such a step. But there`s a candidate -- here`s a candidate
for leader of this country committing himself to promising that whatever at
his disposable, Iran will not get a many nuclear weapon. He, Mitt Romney,
is promising this. Not Bibi Netanyahu, Mitt Romney.

I have to wonder at this. Has Romney calculated the fallout to a
U.S. supported attack on Iran? We know this -- it would be an act of war.
It would put in the hands of those leading Iran, the clerics, the option to
how to respond, how to moral advantage to such a step by a major power
against them. Will they cut off the oil lanes and attack American
interests in the region, rally the Muslim world against us? These are no
small things to consider.

You can bet the Israeli people are considering them, because the
people most exposed to an Iranian nuclear weapon and most threatened by one
are evenly divided right now on whether to support an attack on Iran`s
nuclear facilities. They the people most exposed are in a quandary as to
whether to commit an act of war.

Not Romney. He`s speaking even before getting to the presidency.
He`s out there telling Israel, its right wing government, Iran and the Arab
world and the larger Muslim world, what he now personally is committed to.
And this is dangerous stuff, more ignorant in its implications than even
the clown show Mr. Cain has offered us.

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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