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updated 11/21/2011 2:05:17 PM ET 2011-11-21T19:05:17

Guests: Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, David Corn, Hampton Pearson, Howard Fineman, Ron Christie

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Will Newt get the boot?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off
tonight: Hey, Newt, how`s that front-runner thing working out for you?
We`ve now learned that in representing health care companies, Newt Gingrich
supported what Republicans now denounce as "death panels." He came out in
favor of an individual insurance mandate. Is it possible to take anything
he says now seriously?

Also, when did the GOP decide that ignorance is not only bliss, but
it`s downright presidential? Herman Cain says Americans are looking for a
leader, not a reader. But how about reading the newspapers? Rick Perry
criticizes President Obama for being the smartest guy in the room, like
there`s something wrong with it. The days of conservatives admiring their
own intellectuals like William F. Buckley or Richard Nixon apparently are
long gone.

Plus, a conversation about America and politics tonight with Tom
Brokaw. Why, we`re going to ask him, are politicians on both sides of the
aisle, left and right, including President Obama, having so much trouble
connecting with the American people?

And it was almost 30 years ago that the actress Natalie Wood drowned
mysteriously after a night on a boat off California`s Catalina Island. Now
investigators have reopened the case, as of today. We want to know why.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with this new Republican hunt for the
least-informed presidential candidate they can find.

We start with the apparent GOP front-runner right now, Newt Gingrich.
David Gregory is the moderator of NBC`s "MEET THE PRESS" and Howard Fineman
is an MSNBC political analyst and the Huffington Post Media Group editorial
director.

David Gregory, it`s great to have you on. We`ll talk about "MEET THE
PRESS" coming up this weekend. But let me ask you about this whole thing.
What -- don`t you think, just in a psychological way -- what do you think
it does to Mitt Romney, who`s been running for president since the last
time, to realize that Newt Gingrich is now the preferred candidate of the
Republican Party, with all Newt`s baggage?

I mean, totally objectively, he`s carrying so much baggage, serial
marriages, reprimand from the House of Representatives, basically moved out
by his own party caucus from the speakership. And here he is back as if
none of that`s happened.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": I think it`s troubling
for Romney. At the same time, I think there`s a level of resignation in
the Romney campaign that their campaign was not predicated on setting the
electorate on fire by being this charming historical figure.

This was going to be a different positioning for him. He was going to
have to run on an economic message, on a technocratic message, on a guy who
could figure out what`s wrong with the economy.

The reality is, in 2008, you talk to top Republicans, strategists and
otherwise, they had a real problem with Mitt Romney. A lot of
conservatives didn`t trust him then. They still don`t trust him now. And
that is only amplified by this environment that we`re in.

The Tea Party has come of age politically and has made a real mark in
the mid-term election in 2010 and is now rearing (ph) some level of power.
How much, we don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Right.

GREGORY: But certainly has some power, so there is a looking
elsewhere for an alternative to a more establishment Republican candidate.

MATTHEWS: But here`s the crazy thing, Howard. And you and I have
been through this, but here`s the weirdest thing. The one thing the Tea
Party hates is the individual mandate. The one thing they hate even more
is the so-called "death panels" that Bachmann -- or Bachmann made up, in
fact.

But here`s one -- look at this. One of the cases that Newt Gingrich`s
health care think tank pushed for, according to "The Washington Post" today
was, that anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health
insurance or post a bond. In other words, an individual mandate.

Here, by the way, was a memorable exchange, Howard, from a debate last
month between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on that very subject. How can
Newt run on the very things that the Tea Party and the Republicans overall
hate the most? Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually,
Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you.

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:
That`s not true. You got it from...

ROMNEY: No, it was something...

GINGRICH: ... the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: Yes, we got it from you and the...

GINGRICH: No, but what you said -- what you said is not true.

ROMNEY: You (SIC) got it from the Heritage Foundation and from you.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: What you just said is not true. You did not get that from
me, you got it from the Heritage Foundation.

ROMNEY: And you`ve never -- never supported...

GINGRICH: I was -- I agree with them. But I`m just saying what you
said to this audience just now just plain wasn`t true.

ROMNEY: OK, let me -- and you...

GINGRICH: That`s not where you got it from.

ROMNEY: And you supported it in the past, an individual mandate?

GINGRICH: I absolutely did, with the Heritage Foundation, against
"Hillary care."

ROMNEY: You did support an individual mandate?

GINGRICH: Yes, sir.

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

GINGRICH: OK, a little broader (ph).

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: ... routine. I mean, here he is, in one paragraph denying,
then admitting that he was for the individual mandate...

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the very thing they hate the most about "Obama care."

FINEMAN: Well, the irony is that on this and a few other things, Newt
Gingrich makes Mitt Romney look like a rock of consistency because at
least...

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: Seriously. At least Mitt Romney still defends "Romney care"
as it relates to Massachusetts, whereas Mitt Romney -- excuse me, Newt
Gingrich on the topic of the so-called "death panels" and on the individual
mandate has flipped and flopped 180 degrees on both issues.

MATTHEWS: But he seems to do it within the hour. Remember that...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: He does it with utter -- he does it with utter conviction.
That`s the thing about Newt Gingrich.

MATTHEWS: David, I want to first show this, then react to this. Here
it is. We have so much good elements tonight. Remember the so-called
"death panels" that Republicans used to attack the president`s health care
plan for? Well, Newt weighed in on an end-of-life care, actually, in an
article in (INAUDIBLE) which he signed in the summer of 2009. He talks
here about a company in Wisconsin, which happened to be a paying client of
Gingrich`s consulting firm. Here he is making the case for, if you want to
call them, "death panels."

"More than 20 percent of all Medicare spending occurs in the last two
months of life. Gundersen Lutheran Health System in LaCrosse, Wisconsin,
has developed a successful end-of-life best practice that includes
community-wide advanced care planning, where 90 percent of patients have
advanced directives." In other words, "living wills." "The Gundersen
approach empowers patients and families to control and direct their care.
If the Gundersen approach was used to care for the approximately 4.5
million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save $33
billion a year."

David, the guy`s caught! Anyway, here was Newt Gingrich just a few
days after that piece appeared -- he was asked about the so-called "death
panels" on ABC`s "This Week." Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: We know people have said routinely, Well, you`re going to
have to make decisions. You`re going to have to decide. Communal
standards, historically, is a very dangerous concept. You`re asking us to
trust turning power over to the government when there clearly are people in
America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective
standards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there you go. I mean, he`s advocating end-of-life
directives, which most people consider living wills, which we`re all used
to, and most families who take responsibilities for people in their later
years do have.

I just don`t see where you can find the consistent thinking in Newt
Gingrich on these issues like individual mandate and living wills.

GREGORY: And this is a problem when you get into inconsistencies on
that level. When you try to pierce through the web of his financial
dealings since he left the speakership in Washington -- he made money. As
he says, he was a small businessman. He was a lecturer. He had various
foundations and such and associations that he created, closely tracking a
lot of these policy issues, and he`s going to be scrutinized on that.

But let me just make a general point. I mean, a lot of voters who are
not actually voting yet are evaluating candidates as an anti-Romney sort of
candidate. Maybe they don`t even say it that way, but that`s kind of what
the vibe is. It`s what the feeling is. And you see a Rick Perry, who
can`t get started and then gets into trouble. And Herman Cain has fits and
starts. And then you see Gingrich, who`s performing well in the debates,
taking on the media.

They`re not looking at the whole composite of this. That`s why, if
I`m Mitt Romney, I`m still looking at this and saying, Who out there is
really putting it all together to challenge me? Has any one candidate
really done that yet?

FINEMAN: Well, here`s the problem...

GREGORY: I think it`s still an open question.

MATTHEWS: I think there`s still (INAUDIBLE) contender in that regard.

FINEMAN: Yes, but here`s the problem. Mitt Romney as a candidate is
a human wet match. He can`t strike a fire.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: He`s been at 20 to 25 percent in the polls for the last year
or year-and-a-half. And if he can`t start picking up some votes here,
then, yes, he can divide the field, but there`s still a chance for somebody
at the end to come in and beat him in a lot of these places. That`s the
problem that he still has.

MATTHEWS: And if it`s anybody but Romney, and he`s 25, there`s still
a virgin forest of 75 percent out there.

FINEMAN: There`s a ton out there. That`s why all these people go --
suddenly get so much traction. If anything, it`s possible that Mitt --
that Newt is peaking too early.

MATTHEWS: He`s a wet match.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I like (ph) the new phrases like a headless nail,
the guy you can`t fire. I mean, it`s, like -- I love a wet match. David,
how do you match that little metaphor?

FINEMAN: He can`t. He`s on "MEET THE PRESS."

GREGORY: But here`s -- here`s the way...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

GREGORY: No, but this is why the voting actually matters because I
think Howard`s right. We get to a point -- but there`s no legitimate
alternative to Romney. If Republican primary voters still think that the
president is vulnerable, does electability all of a sudden, in the end,
become very important? And then Romney starts to look a lot stronger if he
starts picking up votes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: We don`t know -- we don`t know whether the anti-Romney --
you know, he`s an inauthentic conservative, is strong enough to carry this
composite of candidates, you know, to make this a longer, protracted fight.
We just don`t know that yet.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the issues in Newt`s past. This
is always tricky business when you get to the personal life, but this has
been rather public. Married three times, divorced twice. How will social
conservatives view that?

Richard Land, a well-known Southern Baptist leader who speaks out on
such issues, told "The National Review" that Newt will have problems with
evangelical women. Land said, quote, "He needs to make the speech of his
life. And in his mind, his target has got to be 40 to 60-year-old
evangelical women. And he`s got to convince them that he`s sorry, he
regrets it, he would do anything he could to undo the pain and hurt that
he`s caused. He understands the pain and hurt that he`s caused and he has
learned his lesson, that he has thrown himself on the grace of Jesus, and
that if they elect him president, he will not let them down, that there
will be no moral scandal in a Gingrich White House."

Well, that`s, of course -- let`s go on here. Well, Newt has tried to
explain his past, not always very successfully. Earlier this year, he was
asked about his past on the Christian Broadcasting Network, a great
platform there, and here was his response, which I count as the greatest
piece of malarkey I have ever heard in my life. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: There`s no question that at times in my life, partially
driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too
hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate. I
found that I felt compelled to seek God`s forgiveness. Not God`s
understanding, but God`s forgiveness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, David, this is tricky business because it`s about
a guy`s personal life. But here he is, blaming his patriotism for his
third marriage. And I -- the use of the word "passion" is so out of sorts
here. It`s like that word chiasmus, where you take the wrong adjective and
apply it to the wrong noun. I mean, passion probably is the reason he got
involved with Callista, if you will.

GREGORY: Well...

MATTHEWS: And here he is, he`s saying it`s his patriotism. I`m just
saying as a bit of logic, will anybody -- Christian or not, anybody
listening to that not think this is malarkey?

GREGORY: First of all, in fairness to Gingrich, I and I think others
asked him about that clip afterwards, and he has, you know, moved away from
that and not used the -- you know, the patriotism defense here for what he
did.

And I -- you know, so I think he`s tried to account for that, which is
not a judgment about whether it`s going to make a difference for voters.

And on that point, just some reporting from this afternoon -- I`ve
talked to a prominent Midwestern conservative, somebody who knows Gingrich
well. And the question I was posing had to do with whether the lobbying
ties were going to be a disqualifier for him.

This source brought up, in fact, they were character issues that he
thought was going to be the biggest problem for Gingrich. And this was not
necessarily somebody endorsing him, but it`s certainly an ally who thought
that was going to be the biggest issue. So if you could see, you know,
other conservatives launching on this in terms of paid advertising and the
like, it could be difficult.

MATTHEWS: A projection here, Howard. And you`re as good at this as
anybody. Suppose this does crumble, this personal life issue, the ethics
issue, the character issues. Throw it all together with his lobbying
establishment past and his total inconsistencies about the issues they care
about, like the individual mandate and "death panels," so-called.

Well, who else is their alternative? If they`re forced to choose
between Mitt and Newt, do they go back to Perry? Do they go back to Cain?
Where do they retreat to? This is the conundrum here in November of 2011.

FINEMAN: Well, I`m tempted to say Rick Santorum still is left.

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN: You`re laughing. He`s a former senator from Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. You`re from Pennsylvania, too.

FINEMAN: I don`t know. I really don`t know. I will say this,
though, about Newt and his positioning right now. It`s not just a matter
of timing. The bar is so low...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... on the Republican side, as set by Rick Perry especially,
in terms of knowledge, in terms of capacity to understand the issues, that
Newt Gingrich gets a lot of extra credit...

MATTHEWS: I agree.

FINEMAN: ... on the score sheet for that kind of thing. He is a
Ph.D. He`s a former speaker. He does know the issues backwards and
forwards. He`s a terrific debater. He did deals with Bill Clinton back in
the day, in the good old `90s. He did lots of deals...

MATTHEWS: He`s fought in the heavyweight division.

FINEMAN: He`s fought in the heavyweight division...

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: ... and he knows how to take a punch...

MATTHEWS: I think David was right about that. As a composite, with
all his flaws, he may end up having a higher center of gravity than the
other guys do.

FINEMAN: As you know, Chris, it`s a game of comparison.

MATTHEWS: I know. Thank you, David. Thanks for joining us. And
thank you, Howard, of course.

David interviews this weekend super-committee members Jon Kyl and John
Kerry. That`s Sunday on NBC. David will be back with us, by the way,
later on in the program with that strange story of Natalie Wood and what`s
up with that case.

Coming up: Herman Cain says Americans want a leader, not a reader?
What`s that about? Rick Perry says President Obama thinks he`s the
smartest guy in the room, like that`s a putdown. When did the Republican
Party -- when did it decide that it`s good to be a little bit out of it, a
little bit unaware? Well, that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Wow, a 20-year-old video of Barack Obama has surfaced and
it`s become a YouTube hit. The future president appeared in a "Black
History Minute" public service announcement for TBS. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, Editor, "Harvard Law Review": The distinguished lawyer
Charles Hamilton Houston was born in 1895, eight months before the Supreme
Court`s separate but equal ruling in Plessey versus Ferguson. He spent his
career fighting to overturn that infamous division.

I`m Barack Obama, remembering Charles Hamilton Houston and celebrating
a great moment in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Obama would have been about 29 years old at the time of
that video.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R-GA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people want to
convict me in the court of public opinion. But the thing about it is that
the people that are on the Cain train, they don`t get off because of that
crap.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow, "that crap." Welcome back to HARDBALL. That`s Herman
Cain defending himself in a New Hampshire yesterday -- in New Hampshire
against critics who`ve said that his lapse on Libya earlier in the week
shows he`s not up to a presidential run.

Here`s more of that defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Who knows every detail of every country of every situation on
the planet! Nobody! A leader is supposed to make sure we`re working on
the right problem, we assign the right priority, surround yourself with
good people. Put together plans and lead!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CAIN: We`ve got plenty of expert! And a leader knows how to use
those experts. We need a leader, not a reader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. If that line sounds familiar to you, it`s because the
fictional President Schwarzenegger said something similar in "The Simpsons
Movie." Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve narrowed your choices down to five
unthinkable options. Each will cause untold misery...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pick number three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t even want to read them first?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was elected to lead, not to read!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: How could Cain have stepped into that? Well, if there`s a
proud strong strain of anti-intellectualism taking hold in the Republican
Party, could that be the case? And will voters go for that anti-
intellectualism?

David Corn`s an MSNBC political analyst and the somewhat chastened
Washington bureau -- I`m sorry. I`m looking at the other guy, at the
screen there. He`s Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones." And Ron
Christie, who does have a somewhat chastened look, has now broken into a
smile, is a Republican strategist and resident fellow at Harvard
University`s Institute of Politics -- very impressed, although I`m not.
Just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: So let`s go now to David Corn.

Let these people speak for themselves. First of all, leader, not a
reader. What does he mean? Like, you don`t have to read the paper? You
just get experts to do it for you? Like, when is he going to know these
things? Like, my question is, if you don`t know it, when are you going to
-- are you going to have briefers to tell you where Libya is? You going to
go...

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that`s exactly what he
means.

And the question you could put to Herman Cain is, would you hire
someone to be a CEO who couldn`t read a profit and loss sheet?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: This whole notion that he doesn`t have a thought, a single
thought about the most significant military action of the past year should
disqualify him. He could have the wrong thought. He could have an opinion
one way or the other, and he`d be in the arena.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: But to run to president and say, I have no idea what you`re
talking about when you ask me about Libya, I mean, there should be no one
on the stage behind him. He should be alone in a room somewhere, you
know...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me tell an old Yogi Berra-ism to my friend Ron.

There`s a line from Yogi Berra. A guy is coming to a party and he`s
saying, you know, we`re lost, but we`re making good time.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: A guy would understand that. We`re lost. He sounds like
the guy saying, we`re lost, but we`re making good time. I am totally
confident of where I`m going, even though I`m lost.

Don`t you have to have a basic curious habit that you and I and
everybody here has picked up over the years? You can`t wait to get to the
paper in the morning. You read the newspaper. You know what`s going on in
the world because you`re just curious about it. It`s got nothing to do
with running for president. Now here this guy admits -- beki-beki-beki-
stan, makes fun of all those weird things.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s not the weird stuff. It`s the basics of what has been
in the headlines. Libya was in the headlines for, what, six months?
Doesn`t he have a gut sense of that issue?

Your thoughts, John -- I mean Ron?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well,
Chris, here`s one that you and I are absolutely in agreement on this.

I heard that clip and I said, are you serious? Are you seriously
going to sit there and say that you need to get folks to surround you, that
you don`t need to read all that stuff?

You have worked in the White House, Chris. I have worked in the White
House for the president. The president is always taking in information,
always sifting, always trying to figure out, how can I best lead the
country? And if you`re saying this now, you`re not ready for prime-time.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CHRISTIE: This guy is not ready for prime time.

MATTHEWS: I know.

CHRISTIE: I wish the Republicans would say, look, Herman, you have
had a great, successful run in business. Good for you. If you want to run
in politics, why don`t you run for city council or Congress. But you`re
going to say those sorts of things and think you should be the next
president of the United States with two wars going on, with the economy the
way that it is? I think that it`s pathetic.

MATTHEWS: Well, I have got another entry for you here. Rick Perry,
he criticized President Obama, saying he thinks -- he thinks -- he`s
talking about President Obama -- he thinks he`s the smartest guy in the
room. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His thinking that he
can go and negotiate because of his great debating skills any place in the
world, well, we have seen a number of examples of that, where it`s just
been an abject failure.

And as a matter of fact, his thinking that he`s the smartest guy in
the room has hurt America around the world, particularly when it comes to
foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? You`re first, David.

CORN: My follow-up question would be, give me three examples, because
it`s all this generalization. He`s smart. We should be scared of that,
that he`s smart? Was he was he too smart to save the auto companies? Was
he too smart to get Osama bin Laden?

I mean, that`s not the issue. If you have a candidate out there -- I
mean, Ron just put it pretty well. If you`re a president, you have got to
be smart. You have got to have intellectual curiosity, as you talk about
often. You have got to be able to absorb information.

You may end up...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So you don`t think there`s a reason, somewhere a kernel of
truth in the charge that the president floats above the people a bit too
elite in his experience -- not his experience, but his sense that he can
think through just about anything and solve it?

CORN: Well, I think he has a lot of confidence.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: I think George W. Bush had a lot of confidence. And you can
argue maybe it didn`t work out so well in some ways.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let Ron get at this.

CORN: But talking about someone being smart is the problem...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at, Ron -- you go on here, Ron.

Here`s Rick Perry again criticizing President Obama. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: He grew up in a privileged way. He never had to really work
for anything. And he never had to go through what Americans are going --
you know, there`s 14-plus million Americans sitting out there, some of them
watching this program tonight, that don`t have a job. This president has
never felt that angst that they have in their heart.

And we need a president who has been through their ups and downs in
life, who understands what it`s like to have to deal with the issues of our
economy that we have today in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, Barack Obama was born on third base, right, Ron?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I mean, here`s a guy with a stepfather in Rhodesia. His
real father, his birth father, splits when he`s 2 years old, never really
meets the guy. His mother raises him with the help of her parents. He
does have sort of a bounce-around life that wasn`t exactly what you would
call top-drawer.

CHRISTIE: You know, the thing -- and Chris, we have talked about this
many times. I don`t like class warfare being played.

If you want to attack a politician based on their policies or their
position, fine. Barack Obama came from a background of privilege? His
mother was even on food stamps at one point. So the guy went to Columbia.
So he went to Harvard Law School.

I say given the upbringing that he had and the tumultuous past that he
had, good for him that he did that.

MATTHEWS: They were scholarships.

CHRISTIE: I don`t like what Rick Perry -- yes. I don`t like what
Rick Perry is trying to insinuate here, that somehow, oh, if you come from
privilege -- well, you know what, if you come from privilege, you still
have to apply yourself and you still have to dedicate yourself. He still
was the chairman of the Harvard Law Review here at Harvard University.

And I think Barack Obama being the first African-American president
certainly worked his tail off to get to where he is, and he should be
commended. I`m a hard-core right-winger.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Silence is golden.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: David, this is one night we`re going to let Ron Christie
end the discussion, because you can`t beat what he said.

CORN: He`s right.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Ron, five stars.

CHRISTIE: Chris...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Ron Christie.

Up next -- you will pay for it with your Republican pals tonight.

Up next, you won`t believe it, but Michele Bachmann actually said she
hasn`t made a gaffe ever or done anything that caused her to drop in the
polls. Well, what is this, gravity that`s brought her down? 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, gaffe, what gaffe? Apparently, GOP candidate Michele
Bachmann has taken note of the recent campaign blunders of her opponents
Rick Perry and Herman Cain, but how about when it comes to her own campaign
missteps?

Well, let`s take a listen to what she had to say yesterday on how she
has fared so far when it comes to those embarrassing campaign moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven`t had a
gaffe or something that I have done that has caused me to fall in the
polls.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST, "ON THE RECORD": You have had a few little
gaffes, maybe not recently, but you had the historic reference in
Massachusetts, I think, and I think you had one...

(CROSSTALK)

BACHMANN: Well, I got Elvis Presley`s birthday wrong, but I don`t
think that`s a disqualifying factor for being president of the United
States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What? I don`t think Elvis Presley`s birthday was quite
what the host was talking about right there.

More likely it was this. Let`s listen to this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common
is our extreme love for liberty. You`re the state where the shot was heard
around the world at Lexington and Concord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: How can you not know that Lexington and Concord was in
Massachusetts? She was in New Hampshire when she gave that speech. Wow.

Anyway, if it`s not the gaffes, I wonder what Bachmann will say is her
disqualifying factor? What`s brought her down? What`s keeping her from
grabbing this nomination?

And, finally, guess who? It looks like Rick Perry has some company in
trying to misrepresent President Obama`s upbringing. Who is echoing Perry?
It`s right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson.

Let`s hear how Pat Robertson jumped on the president`s trip to
Indonesia this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE 700 CLUB WITH PAT ROBERTSON")

PAT ROBERTSON, HOST, "THE 700 CLUB": He spent four years in
Indonesia. I don`t know if he was trained in a madrassa, one of those
Muslim schools, but, nevertheless, he -- that is his inclination.

His father was a Kenyan socialist, and he talks about the roots of his
father. I don`t know what his mother was doing. She just sort of flitted
around. This may give him more of a warped perspective of what needs to be
done to make America the greatest nation on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you take that guy`s advice, maybe you shouldn`t
even have a vote.

Last month, by the way, Robertson advised GOP candidates to lay off
this birther crap. I guess he forgot his on advice. I think the guy`s in
his dotage.

Anyway, up next: a conversation about America and politics with Tom
Brokaw. I`m going to ask Tom why so many political leaders, President
Obama included, are having trouble connecting out there. And that`s a real
problem for all politicians today, connecting with real Americans.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks rounding out a rough week with another thin, but volatile
session. The Dow Jones industrial climbed 25 points, the S&P 500 down a
fraction of a point, and the Nasdaq gave up 15 points. All three major
averages closing at their lowest level in nearly two months after investors
spent the week digesting driblets of news from Europe and Capitol Hill.

That`s where the super committee members insist that a deal is still
possible, but insiders describe the talks as on the verge of collapse.
Meanwhile, a key gauge of economic activity rose more than expected,
boosted by a jump in new home building permits.

In stocks, Salesforce slumped after the cloud computing giant posted a
quarterly loss accompanied by a tepid outlook. And wireless service
provider Clearwire tumbled after the company`s CEO said it might miss a big
debt payment on December 1.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, can any candidate for president actually connect with the
American people this year? The latest Pew poll shows Mitt Romney stuck in
neutral, if you will, at 23 percent, with flavors of the month like Herman
Cain at 22 and Newt Gingrich creeping up now to 16 percent.

No one seems to be catching fire, including President Obama, I must
say.

Joining me now is NBC`s Tom Brokaw, who is the author of the book "The
Time Of Our Lives: A Conversation About America, which is in bookstores
right now.

Tom, thanks so much for coming on, because you come to us with a
wealth of recent information about the vox pop out there, the feelings of
people.

Is there any one sort of thematic that you could point to about their
feeling towards what we do, what politicians do in America today, and what
they don`t do?

TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they feel entirely
walled off from the process, Chris.

If I were to describe it one way, I suppose it would be that politics,
really, our political culture is analog and the real world is digital at
this moment. They`re playing by the old rules. And people who have deep
concerns about this systemic recession that we`re still involved in here
hear not very many answers that are going to provide them with the kind of
relief that they`re looking for.

I have spent the last couple of days in the Southeast, and I just saw
an astonishing number. I was in Alabama. And an international forecasting
firm has said that, in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, it will be another
five years before they return to the employment levels of the pre-recession
time.

In North Carolina and other states around them, it will be four more
years. There are 20 million homes in this country that are, if not
underwater, they`re in peril of being foreclosed on. And it`s that kind of
reality that is the greatest concern to the country.

And they don`t see what they think are really reasonable answers for
addressing that. You know, we were told that the recession ended in 2009.
You can`t prove it by the folks who live on Main Street, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Boy, Tom, I hear the same thing from way up in New England,
places in Rhode Island which are really bad off, the same thing about the
mortgage situation, where so many homes, so many foreclosures, so many --
well, let me -- rather than quote from your book back to you, because you
wrote it, I want to ask you about a couple of things, about the geography
of the problem right now.

Is there a sense that -- that brains matter? That`s a pretty
primitive question, but it used to be we would look for somebody pretty
smart to be president. Kennedy or Nixon were smart guys, both of them. We
look at -- you know, we looked at Bill Clinton as certainly a very bright
guy.

Is that still the hunt, for the smartest guy? Or is there a new sense
of almost a populistic anti-intellectualism? Because I smell it some some
places -- on the right, at least.

(CROSSTALK)

BROKAW: Yes, I think there`s some of that, but I also think that this
is at a time when the junkies are involved. That`s what`s reflected in a
lot of the polls.

And I think that the reason that Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain are
holding up as well as they are is because they`re targets for a lot of
people, and they have their advocates who say, hey, we`re going to fight
back against the establishment view on this.

By the way, this is why we have these long run-ups and these
primaries, so that we can find out who these people really are. But, as
you know as well as anyone, Chris, in the final analysis, people go into
the voting booth, and they vote, I believe, on three criteria: Will this
person make my life safe, not just for me, but for my children? Is it
someone that I`m comfortable with personally? And does he or she have the
intelligence to operate in a -- what is a really more complicated world at
this time?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROKAW: And that will come into play a lot more as we get toward the
end of this year and the beginning of the process, Chris, in Iowa and New
Hampshire and South Carolina, in the early primaries, because the field
will begin to broaden in terms of who`s paying attention and what their
criteria are for the candidates.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Your book`s called "The Time of Our Lives." One
thing about our time is that it seems to be getting more virtual. You
mentioned about digital a moment ago, about the way people connect. Young
people -- I always kid about this, young people go down into their
basements in their parents` home and they`re still at home, and they`re
basically living their lives on laptops. They`re communicating with other
friends, even, through social networking.

How does that make Americans feel? Does it make us feel more or less
connected to the people pulling the levers?

BROKAW: Well, that`s a new universe that we`re still working our way
through. I like to tell young people, this is the most transformative
technology of my lifetime. I never anticipated that it would have the
reach that it does.

But I also say to them, you can`t eliminate your student debt by
hitting "backspace" or "delete". You`re not going to change global
poverty, for example, by hitting "escape". And I don`t care how often you
text someone that you really care about, it will never replace the first
kiss. And I don`t want to hear a lyric that goes "a tweet is just a tweet"
as time goes by.

So we have to find a way to find the common ground in all of this.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROKAW: In terms of the impact on the political culture, Chris, it`s
both good news and bad news. The bad news is that you can organize very
quickly with a keystroke a movement to create a kind of jihad against a
candidate that you don`t care about, or the candidate who doesn`t hue
exactly to what your very narrow special interests may be.

On the other hand, it does give you the opportunity as a voter to do
the research that you like to do, to hear his speeches, or to read the
press releases of people in real time on a daily basis. So, we`re still
working our way through it. We still haven`t come entirely to grips about
how we`re going to use this new technology.

MATTHEWS: You know, you say something in your book that we always
have to do around here. You warn people to pay attention to what they`re
consuming on the Internet. You write, quote, in your book, "What we`re
missing, however, is a national dialogue about the wise use of these
powerful instruments of communication. In the hands of reckless or
vindictive users, they are used for intimidation and malice. They can be
the electronic equivalent of pulling a pin on a grenade and rolling the
explosive into someone`s private life. What came to be called fragging in
Vietnam."

So when somebody`s putting out something viral out there, it`s almost
like one of those rumors on the stock market, it could be anything -- and I
always yell to people, where`d that come from? Who told you that?

But I`m not sure everybody does that -- you know, that discerning
kind of, wait a minute, who told you that?

BROKAW: Well, part of the purpose of this book is that I`m now 71
years old, I`ve been at this for half a century, I have grandchildren and
I`m concerned about the kind of world that they`ll inherit. And this is a
nonpartisan book, Chris. What I`m just saying is that we all have to get
involved and take control of our own destiny, and our generation,
especially, has to determine what kind of a legacy that we want to leave.

The phrase that I`ve been using with a lot of citizens is, you have
to reenlist as citizens.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BROKAW: And that means hard work. You can`t be a couch potato, just
sit at home and watch HARDBALL or any of the other offerings. You have to
get up on your toes and go online and find out what you can rely on and
what you can`t.

It can be a really exciting time, you know? I wrote about the
greatest generation. Think about the challenges they met and gave us the
lives that we have.

One of the things I`ve been saying to audiences 50 years from now,
what will our children and grandchildren say about the lives that we left
for them? I think that`s the real test of the year 2012.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Thank you so much, Tom Brokaw. The name of the book
is "The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America." There it is.

Good luck with that, Tom. Thanks for coming on HARDBALL.

Up next, investigators have re-opened one of Hollywood`s most
enduring mysteries. What happened to actress Natalie Wood?

We all loved Natalie Wood. She died on that yacht in a terrible --
whatever. We really don`t know what happened that night out there in the
Pacific. And there`s new information about the case.

And this is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Herman Cain has done it again. Listen to what he said as
he defended his brain freeze the other day when asked about Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His question was, and I
hope you all show this or write about it: do you agree or disagree with
President Obama on Libya? What part?

Do I agree with the part where we intervened with rockets and
missiles? Do I agree with siding with the opposition? Do I agree with
saying that Gadhafi should go? Do I agree that they now have a country
where you`ve got Taliban and al Qaeda that`s going to be part of the
government?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The Taliban`s in Libya? Really, Mr. Cain? So, first, you
didn`t know about the neo-cons that took us to war in Iraq. You didn`t
know China already had nuclear weapons. And now this.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Thirty years ago this month, actress Natalie Wood disappeared off a
boat near Catalina Island, there it is, in a mysterious death ruled an
accidental drowning. But the Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Office today has
re-opened the case, saying people have contacted them with new information,
which was substantive, said -- just four people were on that boat that
night, by the way. Wood and her husband, Robert Wagner, the actor
Christopher Walken, and the boat`s captain, Dennis Davern.

David Gregory is back right now with us to discuss the case. He`s,
of course, moderator of "Meet the Press." But this morning, on the "Today"
program, he had an exclusive interview with the captain, Davern, who said
he lied to the authorities and the police in his report in 1981.

David, let`s watch a portion of your interview, which was the hardest
going interview I`ve seen in the long time, getting something out of this
guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Sir, my question is,
what happened that led to her death that we didn`t know before?

DENNIS DAVERN: I can`t answer that question right now.

GREGORY: And why not? You`re referring to mistakes you made. Have
you changed your story from when you spoke to investigators years ago?

DAVERN: I did lie on a report years ago.

GREGORY: And what did you lie about then?

DAVERN: It was just a -- I made mistakes by not telling the honest
truth in a police report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I know you struggled with him. You must have gone
around it five or six times, just to get that information, that he lied.
And then later on, he said that he believes that Mr. Wagner was guilty.

GREGORY: Well, here`s the interesting part. The sheriff`s office in
Los Angeles has reopened the investigation. The question is why?

The book that Davern wrote was two years old. He wrote a book about
his version of events, which I get to in a second, a couple years ago,
didn`t go anywhere. And he and his co-writer -- they`ve been, you know,
pressuring this, trying to get the case open.

Now, it`s reopened. The question: what are the new leads? What does
he, ultimately, say in this interview? And it took a while to get out of
him, is that Wagner lied, that he lied, that they basically covered up the
real story.

Bottom line is they had a bad fight. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood
had a fight, the result of which, Davern says, was her death. I won`t
explain exactly how but that she -- not that she was pushed over by Wagner,
he didn`t specifically murdered, but when she falls, when she goes missing,
his charge this morning is Wagner basically says we`re not going to look
real hard for her. Doesn`t use the big searchlight. Doesn`t use the big
searchlight.

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean? What`s the implication?

GREGORY: Well, the implication is that presumably the more
charitable view is Wagner, you know, was saying, look, I don`t know where
she is, but she`s afraid of the water, maybe she went to shore on a dingy,
or go to the restaurant or something, I`m just going to let it be for now.

MATTHEWS: But there`s all kinds of possibilities here. They could
have a fight. She could have gone outside and slipped. And that would
have cause and effect. That wouldn`t mean he did it.

GREGORY: At the time, if you remember, when all this happened, it
was ruled an accidental drowning. There were questions about whether she
was bruised. You know, was she -- you know, was she under the influence?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GREGORY: Did she fall off the boat? Even getting into the dingy.
They apparently weren`t used, the motor wasn`t turned on. You know, what
happened?

Christopher Walken was the actor, of course, was asleep at that time.
They had all been out earlier on.

But the point what Davern was saying is that there was a fight that
he tried to get into the middle of, and Wagner said stay out of it, and
that he, Davern, did not tell the truth about what he knew 30 years ago,
which is why you think people believe now, now you`re saying that basically
he had an agreement with Wagner to kind of soft-pedal all this.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is now in your interview, Davern. He pins
the blame on Natalie`s husband, Robert Wagner, but the L.A. Sheriff`s
Department this afternoon said Wagner is not a suspect. I`m not sure what
that means legally.

Here is more of your interview, David, this morning. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY: Was the fight between Natalie Wood and her husband, Robert
Wagner, what ultimately led to her death?

DAVERN: Yes.

GREGORY: How so?

DAVERN: Like I said, that`s going to be up to the investigators to
decide.

GREGORY: Was he responsible for her death in some way?

DAVERN: Well, like I said, I think we all made mistakes that night,
and, --

GREGORY: Mr. Davern, that wasn`t my question. Was he responsible
for her death? I`m not asking about your story.

DAVERN: Yes, I would say so, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: David, this is going to be used in journalism show
someday, what I would call an uncooperative witness, but he wanted to get
something out.

What do you think was the minimum out of information he sought to put
on? Here he is agreeing to be on television.

GREGORY: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: What did he want to say? Because he didn`t say much,
except when you pushed him to say, that he believes that Wagner is somehow
responsible.

GREGORY: Right.

MATTHEWS: Somehow.

GREGORY: Somehow responsible. And when I laid it out for him, I
said, do you think he pushed her over, or do you think he was basically
responsible by not doing much to look for her when he knew that she was in
some sort of trouble or went missing and that he was so worried about it.
What he writes in the book is that Wagner said to him, according to Davern,
that he was so worried about his public image, that they didn`t want to
make a big deal of the search-and-rescue effort, because it will make him
look bad at the time.

Now -- I mean, Wagner, even if his own memoirs talked about, you
know, expressing remorse about what had happened. But, again, it`s never
gotten beyond the idea that he`s somehow culpable, only that, you know, a
terrible accident occurred here.

What Davern, I think, was trying to get across is that they had a
fight that he had not divulged before.

Now, let`s put this in context. What Wagner has said is that he
welcomes the reopening of the investigation, but he did imply that Davern
is trying to profit off of this.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: The cops don`t say he`s a suspect. It`s also not clear
whether they`re really relying on the information of Davern.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you`re right.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: -- might they have.

MATTHEWS: It might be something else.

Thank you, David Gregory.

Unusual territory for us, but I`ll tell you, people really liked
Natalie Wood, and she has a fabulous memory in this country of us
moviegoers.

Anyway, this Sunday on "Meet the Press," David interviews super
committee members John Kerry and Jon Kyl. There`s a frustrating story.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the clown show now being
performed by those Republican presidential candidates.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Running for president shouldn`t be an amateur hour, much less a clown
show. I spent night after night here watching this parade of absurdity.

Donald Trump, let me spell this out. You are an incredible showman
and business tycoon, but you are not a presidential candidate.

Going after the president`s birth certificate was a brilliant
gimmick, but a gimmick nonetheless, and one that ended up blowing up.

Michele Bachmann, please. You began with this nonsense about the
Founding Fathers working their hearts out to end slavery. Every school kid
within a bus ride of Mt. Vernon have seen the slave quarters where the
Washingtons kept those people you say they were desperately trying to set
free. No, they weren`t.

As Ed Rendell pointed out, the Washingtons liked having their slaves,
they even brought them up to Philadelphia to share George`s presidential
years with them.

Rick Perry, he threatened to have Texas seceded from the Union,
pointed to some provision in a Texas annexation that allowed for it. No
such provision exists, and neither does the possibility of this cowboy
getting into the White House without a permission slip from the president,
the real president.

Herman Cain, excuse me, you don`t even read the newspapers. You
don`t even care enough to take a few minutes a day to know what`s happening
in our country, and you say you want to run it.

Newt, I got to hand it to you. Imagine the pain and self doubt you
must be inflicting on Mitt Romney. Imagine being Mitt and see the latest
poll that shows Republicans prefer you, you with all your baggage from
previous marriages, a reprimand from the Congress, and being driven from
the speakership by your own caucus.

Politics is a learning profession historian Arthur Schlesinger once
said. What have these Republican candidates learned that gives them the
cheek to ask the Americans to make them our president?

There was once a time when people believed they had to prove
themselves before running for president.

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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