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updated 11/22/2011 9:57:37 AM ET 2011-11-22T14:57:37

Guests: Tony Perkins, Ron Christie, Cynthia Tucker

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Failure by committee.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Worst Congress ever. You might have thought it was impossible for this
Congress to be more unsuccessful or less popular, but this group never
gives up trying. First, this Congress punted deficit reduction over to the
so-called congressional super-committee. And now that committee has
announced it can`t reach a deal. So now what?

Here`s the first result. Look at the Dow-Jones. It dropped almost
250 points today on anticipation of the news. So what happens now? Who
gets the blame? And how does this affect the 2012 race?

Plus, when you hear "Republican flip-flopper," you think perhaps Mitt
Romney, right? Well, check out Newt Gingrich. His Web site has shiny new
explanations for why he`s changed his positions on the health care mandate,
global warming, TARP, and what he called Paul Ryan`s, quote, "right-wing
social engineering" Medicare plan. And luckily for Newt, all of his new
position line -- it lines up nicely with the conservative Republican
primary voters. Big surprise.

Also, the video that went viral this weekend, campus police pepper
spraying peaceful Occupy protesters at UNC (SIC) Davis. That`s out in
California. The university`s police chief was placed on administrative
leave today, and many students are calling for the university`s chancellor
to step down.

And look who`s decided to take a chance on Iowa, give Iowa a try, Mitt
Romney. He may be trying to win it all up there in that first big event
next year, but if he loses big, it could be all over for Mitt.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with why I think November 22nd,
tomorrow, should never be a day to remember John F. Kennedy.

We start with the super-committee`s failure to reach a deal. Howard
Fineman is the Huffington Post Media Group editorial director. Chris
Cillizza is managing editor of Postpolitics.com and author of "The Fix" on
the Washingtonpost.com. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Here`s the statement released late this afternoon, just moments
earlier, late this evening, from the super-committee, announcing their
failure to reach an agreement. Quote, "After months of hard work and
intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will
not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public
before the committee`s deadline," close quote.

Howard, lack of confidence, no confidence -- I keep thinking that
word, I`ve been scribbling this on my notes tonight, "confidence," the
ability of the federal government, in any of its capacities, to do what it
promises to do.

This Congress set up this committee. This Congress said this
committee will act. This committee will do the job or we`re going to cut
defense and do all these atrocious things. It set it up so it had to
succeed, and then it failed.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes, it`s -- it`s a result that conforms to what the American people think
about Congress and about Washington in general. They called it "super."
It wasn`t. They said it would produce a deal. It didn`t. They said it
would have triggers so it would have immediate far-ranging consequences.
It doesn`t!

The changes that now supposedly are going to be triggered by this
don`t come into effect until January 2013. In between that time and now,
there`s going to be a presidential campaign, which will be all about the
issues that this committee refused to deal with.

MATTHEWS: You know what I think is really -- let me go to Chris now
for your general thoughts. But it seems to me that if you`re out watching
tonight -- you may be a progressive, you may be a Democrat, you may be a
Republican or an independent. But in any case, your people didn`t deliver,
your people.

It seems to me that the progressive -- let`s take the progressive
side. The progressives didn`t put forth a plan that increased revenues by
a certain recognizable amount through some kind of -- maybe going back to
the Clinton tax program, 39 percent top rate, something that was quite
reasonable and fair. They did not come through with entitlement reforms
that would have matched up with that and added up to a $1.2 trillion
reduction of spending over the next 10 years. So they didn`t do it.

The Republicans, of course, did nothing on revenues. They really did
nothing in terms of a complete package on entitlement reform. So neither
side even put forward a deal that the other side could reject. They`re
both so squeamish about offending their constituency groups, whether they
be the AARP organization or Grover Norquist, or whoever else out there --
so afraid of these outside players that they didn`t play.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POSTPOLITICS.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
Chris, let me -- I don`t disagree with you, but let me just offer an
alternate theory, which is that the two parties just simply do not agree on
the right...

MATTHEWS: Well, why don`t they show us...

CILLIZZA: ... on the right -- on the...

MATTHEWS: ... how they disagree? Why don`t they propose...

CILLIZZA: Well, I agree. I...

MATTHEWS: ... what they believe, and then we can look at it and
decide who`s right? If both sides would come up with a plan, then we can
look at it and say -- maybe an outside arbiter could say, Well, I know how
to put those together. Do them both.

CILLIZZA: Well, what I would say, Chris, is that we know -- you`re
right on the specifics. I would say, broadly, we know Republicans don`t
want any tax increases and we know Republicans -- Democrats don`t want to
go into entitlement cuts. They just don`t agree. They`re waiting for the
next election to decide it. I would say, I think that`s a can...

MATTHEWS: Oh, that`ll deliver us!

CILLIZZA: ... a nerve-wracking proposition because I don`t know that
the American public knows what the right forward or the way they want to
move forward...

MATTHEWS: Yes, OK, the problem with that...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: ... January 2013 and not know.

MATTHEWS: We don`t elect people to follow us, we elect people to lead
us. And here`s the problem we have. Here`s the problem.

CILLIZZA: And they don`t.

MATTHEWS: We`re going to have a close election. Everybody at this
table...

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... the three of us, I think agree it`s going to be a darn
close, tight-as-a-drum election next year. If that`s the case, we won`t
get a mandate for change, we`ll get a mandate for division again.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Once again, they`ll go back in and nobody will have 60
Senate seats, nobody will have a commanding lead in the House. And Howard,
we`re right back to where we are right now.

FINEMAN: I think it`s a very good point. I`m fascinated by President
Obama in this. The Democrats on the committee, on the super-committee...

MATTHEWS: What a name!

FINEMAN: OK -- and some of the Republicans, basically said, Keep the
president out of this and -- because he`ll, quote, "politicize" it. So all
right. So the president stayed out of it, and I -- and they didn`t come up
with a deal. So now some people are going to blame the president for lack
of leadership, even though the congressional allies told him to stay out of
it. I think he`s damned if he did and damned if he didn`t.

And I think he probably -- it`s easy to say this, and I often find
myself in the role of Monday morning quarterbacking with this president,
who -- I think his heart is in the right place, but he doesn`t know how to
execute...

MATTHEWS: OK, two...

FINEMAN: ... the politics of it. He probably should have gone in
there and said, I`m going to have to lead us, and do it. Somebody`s got to
lead. There`s no leadership anywhere...

MATTHEWS: Do you think...

FINEMAN: ... in the city.

MATTHEWS: Howard -- now, let me go to...

FINEMAN: There`s no leadership anywhere in the city.

MATTHEWS: ... Chris, and then Howard back in. Do you think the
president missed -- and I like him, too, in terms of his heart. I think
his values are very good. I`m not sure his guts are always there in terms
of what has to be done because you never know when to put your guts on the
line. You never know when to bet it all at the table.

When he didn`t do Simpson-Bowles, when he didn`t take that middle-of-
the-road position -- I know it wasn`t the Democratic position, but it was a
position that could have moved things forward on debt reduction if he had
taken it. Do you think he`s looking back now, saying, No, this wasn`t the
right time to stick my neck out, but damn it, that was?

CILLIZZA: They`ll never acknowledge...

MATTHEWS: I should have done that now.

CILLIZZA: They`ll never acknowledge it because, Chris, you know,
this, presidents, Democratic or Republican, never admit that they should
have done something that they didn`t do.

But yes, is the answer to that because that was a fully formed plan
that there was at least the possibility to rally Democrats and Republicans
behind and get the Barack Obama as a guy who can fundamentally change the
calculus, political calculus of Washington.

That dynamic, what he was elected on, proved that point. It got too
far down the road. He really didn`t mention it...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CILLIZZA: ... in the State of the Union. And by the time...

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: By the time we were...

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry. The president`s...

CILLIZZA: ... at where a decision was going to be made, it was -- you
know, the cake was baked. There was not -- you can`t go back and reverse
engineer it...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the president`s going to respond to our implicit and
explicit criticisms at 5:45 today. We`ll have it as part of this program
tonight. Howard?

FINEMAN: Well, on the other hand, if the president had done that and
taken on his own base, there`s no evidence whatsoever that it would have
induced, either through politics or guilt, the Republicans...

MATTHEWS: So why...

FINEMAN: ... to do anything.

MATTHEWS: Why have a profile in courage then?

FINEMAN: So the thing is that, basically, the Bush tax cuts -- we`re
still being ruled, in a way, by the Bush tax cuts from a decade ago. They
are defining the politics of today every bit as much as they did back then.
And because, ultimately, the president really hasn`t figured out a way to
make the Republicans -- put the Republicans on the defense about that,
nothing else can follow.

MATTHEWS: So in other words...

FINEMAN: Nothing else can follow.

MATTHEWS: ... once Bush got through a tax cut for upper-middle-class
people, who were the ones who were deciding...

FINEMAN: And the wealthy.

MATTHEWS: ... and rich people, that basically cut the rates down from
39 to lower, 35, it`s very hard to get them back up again, politically
because there`s so many people affected by it and -- wealthy people.

Here`s the Republicans, by the way, put the blame for the committee`s
failure at the doorstep of the White House. By the way, the president will
respond to that this evening. In a memo sent from Speaker of the House
John Boehner to GOP House members today, Boehner laid out the Republican
argument.

The memo says, quote, "The joint select committee was unable to reach
agreement because President Obama and Washington Democrats insisted on
dramatic tax hikes on American job creators, which would make our economy
worse."

So it`s all propaganda now, "job creators," "Washington Democrats"...

FINEMAN: "Dramatic tax hikes."

MATTHEWS: The language -- the language is all PR now.

FINEMAN: They`re not dramatic...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: Well, they`re not -- I guess they`re dramatic if you`re very
wealthy.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: But even for them, it`s not necessarily that dramatic.

CILLIZZA: Chris...

FINEMAN: And they`re still lower than they were even under Bill
Clinton, let alone before that. But the terms of the debate have been
changed in a way that the president has been unable to change.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re so right. And that (INAUDIBLE)

FINEMAN: He`s been unable to change the paradigm.

MATTHEWS: The Chinese handcuffs. Here`s the Republican presidential
contenders accusing President Obama of causing the committee`s failure.
Here was Mitt Romney today. Let`s listen to the former governor of
Massachusetts, although he tries to forget he had that job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of the
Democrats were asked, Well, what`s the president`s role been to try and
help this super-committee to come to consensus? And the answer is, he
hasn`t had any role. He`s done nothing! It is another example of failed
leadership. He has not taken personal responsibility to get this super-
committee to find ways to balance our budget and cut spending!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, neither has Mitt Romney come out with a proposal. By
the way, this campaign is beginning to look more and more like Nixon `68,
no press conferences really, no meetings on -- no showing up on "MEET THE
PRESS" or any of the Sunday shows, much less here. Avoid -- just make
these kind of...

FINEMAN: Well, it doesn`t -- it doesn`t -- I mean, I think Mitt
Romney has a partial point there. I think the President was probably too
trusting of John Kerry and all the other people who said, Don`t worry, Mr.
President, let us handle it. We`ll force a deal. You`ve got to be kidding
me.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: But you`re also right that the Republicans, for the most
part, and especially Romney, have stayed away from anything specific
because they haven`t been forced to do it. All the advertising on the
campaign, all the rhetoric on the campaign trail...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... is to keep the tax cuts where they are, we`ll find
savings here and there. Yes, maybe we`ll look at entitlements carefully.
Then you ask them more specifically, Where would you cut and what would you
do, specifically? None of them has an answer.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: None of them has an answer.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... who get up in the morning -- Chris, I`ve got to talk to
you about the people that we really talk to every night on this program. I
know, from talking to them, that most people who watch this program read
the newspaper. They try to keep up. They are watching this. They are
watching with some hope, like we all have, about our politicians
delivering.

And they`re watching it again, and they watch this with great
specificity, believing what they were told, that this committee would work,
not because these guys are good guys or good women, but because if they
didn`t, the sword of Damocles would come down on this Defense Department.

Now we`re told they`re already planning ways to avoid the
sequestration that was to follow this -- in other words, the automatic
cuts. It looks like it was a game from the beginning and we were sapped
into it.

CILLIZZA: And I -- Chris, I would say if you needed any more evidence
of that, when does sequestration, the automatic cuts trigger? January
2013. That`s not by accident -- you know, after the 2012 election.

yes, I mean, look, this is -- I tend -- I know that blame is going to
go all over the place. I tend to think there`s plenty of blame to go
around and it`s going to fall on everybody because you`re dealing with a
Congress that`s at somewhere between 9 and 14 percent approval. You`re
dealing with 70-plus percent of the American public who said the country is
headed in the wrong direction.

If you paid any attention to the super-committee or you`re watching
this show now, you`re going to watch what the president`s going to say,
it`s going to further convince you this Congress, this government as
currently constituted cannot do big things.

And the answer to that, Chris, is -- you know, I hate to say it, but
go out and vote. That`s your only option...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how people are going to vote with clarity.

FINEMAN: Can I just say one thing? The idea that the sword of
Damocles cuts to the Pentagon would force the Republicans to negotiate and
come to a deal, if you look at it, was ridiculous because you still have
from now to 2013 to change it. What`s going to happen is, the Republicans
will force a vote, they`ll force the Democrats into supporting the Pentagon
budget, so that`ll be taken off the table, while cuts in Medicare and
Medicaid and the rest of the budget will still be out there.

MATTHEWS: Why didn`t Harry Reid look two steps down the road instead
of one?

FINEMAN: Well, that`s a very good question I don`t have the answer
to.

MATTHEWS: This is chess -- it should be -- it`s checkers and it
should be chess. Anyway, thank you. And I do think at some point, the
president becomes "Lord of the Flies" here, not president of the United
States, because these people don`t look like worth leading right now.

Anyway, Howard Fineman, thank you, Chris Cillizza. You`re always
great. We`ll have the president`s statement on the super-committee coming
up at 5:45 right here as part of the program. He doesn`t know it, but he`s
part of HARDBALL tonight.

Coming up: Think Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper? Well, he is, of
course. Wait until you catch this one. Newt Gingrich is explaining why he
changed his positions on just about everything from health care to global
warming to TARP. And big shocker, every one of his changes are to the
currently popular conservative primary voter and caucus voter opinion. Big
surprise, Newt. You`re catching on.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: One of the critical battleground states for the
presidential race will be the state of Michigan. We`ve got a new Epic-MRA
poll from Michigan in tonight`s HARDBALL scoreboard. Here it is. Mitt
Romney has a 5-point lead over President Obama right now in Michigan. Wow,
Romney was born there and his father was governor, of course, back in the
`60s.

The president leads Mitt -- Newt Gingrich in Michigan by 45 to 40, a
5-point lead, and his lead over Herman Cain is 14 points, 50 to 36.
President Obama beat John McCain in Michigan by 17 points in 2008. What a
difference a day -- well, three years makes.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Newt Gingrich continues his rise
to the top of the Republican presidential field. Take a look at this "USA
Today" Gallup poll, where he is tops among registered Republican voters.
Mitt Romney is second and Cain a distant now third, which is similar to
what you see in the new CNN Opinion Research poll.

Over the weekend, the Gingrich campaign launched a Web site to
explain, in his words, his positions on issues. Well, take, for example,
his calling the Paul Ryan Medicare plan a "right-wing social engineering."
Well, Newt now says his words were too harsh.

How about his past support for health care -- a health care mandate?
Well, now he sees the error of his ways. He thinks mandates are, quote,
"wrong on principle."

On the 2007 political ad with Nancy Pelosi that argued for climate
change, does that still work? No, he refers to the interview recently
where he called it, quote, "probably the single dumbest thing I`ve ever
done." So he`s switching all over the place.

For the latest on Newt Gingrich and whether conservatives will buy his
explanations, if you will, let`s bring in "Mother Jones" Washington bureau
chief David Corn, who`s also an MSNBC political analyst. And Tony Perkins
is president of the Family Research Council.

Tony, thank you for joining us. I want you to go directly (ph) to
this one here. This is where he explains his position on impeachment. The
Gingrich answers Web site has this to say about Newt`s tenure during the
Clinton impeachment. Of course, he was speaker back then.

Quote -- this is -- actually, this is a group of people described as
"Newt himself, Callista, his wife, and his campaign." So it`s sort of like
a group of people explaining in the third person Newt Gingrich`s behavior.
So even though Newt co-wrote this or perhaps drafted it himself, he`s
talking about himself in the third person.

"Opponents often try to delegitimize Newt Gingrich by pointing out
that he had admitted to having an extramarital affair during the
impeachment of President Bill Clinton. What these accusers are ignoring is
that the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton were due to the
fact that the president committed perjury in front of a sitting federal
judge, which is a felony. As the speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives, Newt felt that he had a duty to uphold the rule of law by
pursuing impeachment. He stands by that decision today."

So, there you have written in the third person this reference to Newt,
by Newt, apparently, with his new wife.

So I don`t know what to make of this, Tony, but -- I don`t know how
flexible you are, but can you see this guy, who does these sort of jumping
jacks of morality here, as our head of state, head of state of the United
States, not head of government, head of the conservative movement, but the
symbol of our state, of -- of our country?

(CROSSTALK)

PERKINS: Chris, I think what this says, I mean, what we have here is
a -- kind of a political version of musical chairs. And this week, Newt is
in the chair. He`s at the front.

I think this says more about what people think regarding Mitt Romney
than they do Newt Gingrich. Newt has done a pretty good job, I think, in
the debates, providing some kind of a senior statesman elder role, and has
provided, I think, some pretty good insights. I don`t think people have
been focusing on all of his past indiscretions.

I will say that , as he has dealt with them, he`s shown a little more
humility than is characteristic of Newt Gingrich, which I think is helpful.
But I think he`s going to undergo some really, really intensive political
poking and probing. He`s going to be -- it`s going to be worse than going
through a TSA gauntlet at the airport I think when he`s finished in the
next couple of weeks. I`m not sure he stands up to that scrutiny.

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think about him as head of state, you,
Tony Perkins? I have watched you and listened to you for years. I
understand your point of view, I think. Would you like to see Newt
Gingrich as our head of state, the man who represents, he and his new wife,
our country?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would you like to see that?

PERKINS: I`m not completely convinced of a -- I mean, I know people
make mistakes and they have change of hearts.

And I do have some concerns about -- one of the most significant
pledges you make, I think, is a pledge that you make to your wife, to your
spouse, to your husband. And that`s a pretty intense commitment.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s made a lot of them.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: He`s made a number of them.

PERKINS: And therein -- therein lies the problem.

And I`m not sure that he can overcome that, especially with female
voters, because if you can`t keep...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How about with you, Tony? Where do you stand on him as
head of state? I`m having a problem getting your answer. You can say you
haven`t decided yet.

PERKINS: You know, I haven`t decided. No, I have not.

(LAUGHTER)

PERKINS: I am undecided on this race. I am looking and I`m keeping
an open mind.

I think he has some hurdles to overcome. And I`m trying to be -- it`s
not so much what I think, but what I hear other people in our constituency
that are saying, and they`re not convinced that he would be the right one.
But they`re also not settled with Mitt Romney, so they`re looking for an
alternative.

(CROSSTALK)

PERKINS: And right now, Mitt is at -- or Newt is kind of at the head
of the pack of being scrutinized as a possible alternative to Mitt Romney.
I don`t know that he will be able to survive that kind of scrutiny. But we
will see.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to this, the reports that Newt Gingrich
served his dying wife divorce papers in the hospital.

The Gingrich site says -- quote -- "This story is a vicious lie. It
was first reported by a left-wing magazine in the 1980s based on hearsay
and has survived in left-wing chat rooms on the Internet until today. It
is completely false. Recently, Newt`s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman" -
- or Cushman -- "wrote a column to set the record straight about this
smear. The column reveals that, one, it was her mother that requested the
divorce, not Newt, and it was months before the hospital visit in question.
Two, her mother was in the hospital to remove a tumor, but it was benign,
and she is still alive today. Three, Newt visited the hospital for the
purpose of taking his two children to see their mother, not to discuss the
divorce."

Was that left-wing magazine "Mother Jones"?

CORN: It was "Mother Jones" back in 1984.

MATTHEWS: And what is your account of that?

CORN: And what happened was -- and it was not based on hearsay. It
was based on named sources.

In the spring of 1980, the Gingriches broke up. This is two years
after his first election to the Congress. In September -- they separated.
In 19 -- in September of 1980, Newt brought his two young girls to see his
mother, and they asked the mother, can daddy come up and see you?

While she was recovering from surgery related to her cancer, he gave
her divorce papers to review. He didn`t ask for the divorce, but there
were divorce papers to review. And who also backs up this account? Jackie
Gingrich herself, the wife. She`s -- so it`s not hearsay. This is what
happened.

MATTHEWS: So the gist of the story is that he was so insensitive as
to serve -- as to ask his wife to agree to various points of a divorce
agreement while she was in a hospital with a cancer treatment is true?

CORN: Yes. That is true. It`s undeniable. He and his -- one of his
daughters have said it`s not true, without giving an alternative account.

MATTHEWS: So he and his new wife, Callista, are now rewriting history
in this new statement they`re putting out.

This, by the way, is a new form of life here, where the candidate and
his new wife put together these statements...

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... referring to himself in the third person as innocent of
all previous wrongdoing.

CORN: Well, Newt Gingrich...

MATTHEWS: This is a self-exoneration like we haven`t seen in a while.

CORN: Yes.

Newt Gingrich has more flip-flops than the Mitt Romney surf shop. And
it`s not just on policy. It`s on a lot of aspects of his life. He kind of
reminds me of a snake that eats his own tail and then keeps rolling along.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Tony, I wish you well. I have always liked the fact that you`re an
honest conservative and you do try to find the truth. I hope you don`t
have to be so nimble as to find in this man presidential greatness.

I do think that would be a drop in the bar for the conservative
movement itself. Your thoughts, finally.

PERKINS: I think -- well, the movement is looking for a candidate
they can get behind.

What people have seen in the last few months of Newt Gingrich is kind
of a different version of Newt Gingrich, in that he has played a role, as I
said, as kind of an elder statesman, and has provided some really key
insights. But, again, he`s going to undergo some intense scrutiny, and I`m
not sure he holds up to that when it`s all said and done.

MATTHEWS: David Corn, thank you.

Tony Perkins, as always, sir, thank you for coming on.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, sir.

And happy Thanksgiving to you, sir.

I can do it both ways.

(CROSSTALK)

PERKINS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next -- we all celebrate Thanksgiving in this world.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Rahm on Romney. Wait until you catch this. The
Chicago mayor, formally top -- to President Obama gets a nice dig in, if
you will, a kick, you might call it, in the head. That`s in the
"Sideshow."

And at 5:45, as I said, we`re going to have President Obama`s remarks
live about the super committee`s failure to reach a deal on the debt. The
super committee ain`t so super, is it?

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, laugh it off. He may not be first in the polls, or anywhere
close, but GOP candidate Jon Huntsman did beat his opponents in one way
this past weekend. That`s right. Over the weekend, the former Utah
governor became the first of the 2012 Republican contenders to make an
appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Was he game to poke fun at placing
all of his bets on winning New Hampshire?

Well, the video speaks for itself. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You know, I would like to start with something
you never get to hear at the debates.

Governor Huntsman, the first question is for you.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Isn`t it true that nationally you`re currently
polling in the low single digits?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is true, Seth. But only
a few months ago, I was polling at margin of error.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: So to have any digit at all is a pretty big deal.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: I love all of America, from Dallas, Texas, to Manchester,
New Hampshire, from the innovation of Silicon Valley to the affordable
outlet malls in North Conway, New Hampshire.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I`m from New Hampshire.

HUNTSMAN: Well, that makes sense, because you`re kind and good-
looking, classic New Hampshire.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s paved the way for the rest of the field. I
wonder who will be next to take the plunge to "SNL."

Next up: letting down his guard. When you think about Mitt Romney,
you`re not alone if the first word that comes to mind is boring. Well,
what if Romney made an attempt at being a little less vanilla? "SNL" took
that on question, too. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tonight, Mitt Romney is going to really let
loose. Get ready for Mitt Romney, raw and unleashed.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sometimes, I open hope my closet, I think, is
this a graveyard?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Because there`s so many skeletons inside.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Was there a sex scandal in my past? Could be.
Could be. Why don`t we ask one of my former employees, Deborah Singer.

I never made a comment about your clothing?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You said I was a sharp dresser.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Uh-oh. Uh-oh.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Over the line. Over the line. Man, keep me away
from the ladies, because I`m a real dog. Bark, bark.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And it looks like the candidate himself was up late on
Saturday and caught wind of himself raw and unleashed. Let`s see how he
has brought the phrase to the campaign trail just hours later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, this is me just raw
and unleashed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

ROMNEY: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know. He still sounds pretty clean-cut to
me, unfortunately.

Next up: dishing it out Chicago-style. Ready for Rahm Emanuel`s 2
cents on the 2012 election? Well, the Chicago mayor blasted the GOP field
in Iowa on Saturday, with a special nod, if you will, to front-runner Mitt
Romney. Not one to sugarcoat his opinions, this is no exception. Let`s
listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: The Republicans are having a
debate across town. I never thought I would say this. I`m beginning to
miss the wisdom of Sarah Palin.

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: Their debate was called the Thanksgiving Family Forum, which
is fitting, because I have never seen a greater collection of turkeys.

Take Mitt Romney. He said he`d be in Iowa tonight. We should have
known he`d change his mind. Mitt Romney says he`s a man of steadiness and
consistency.

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: And, if that`s true, then I`m a linebacker for the Chicago
Bears.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m sure we haven`t heard the last of this if Romney
stays on top.

Anyway, up next, the fallout from this incredible video. This is
serious business, campus police at the University of California at Davis
pepper-spraying peaceful Occupy protesters. This is bad news. It`s not
good for the country. And that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN SULLIVAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Brian Sullivan with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

U.S. and European debt concerns sending stocks into a tailspin. The
Dow fell 248 points, the S&P down 22, the Nasdaq giving up 49. Yes,
investors not exactly surprised that the deficit-cutting so-called super
committee hasn`t been able to reach a deal. But today`s drop shows that
complete failure wasn`t necessarily priced in either.

Now, on top of that, you had rating agency Fitch warning France that
its AAA credit rating remains -- quote -- "under pressure." This heightens
fears that Europe`s debt contagion continues to spread. It was a broad
decline across every one of the key sectors, with losers beating out
gainers more than five to one.

Financials, though, got absolutely clobbered. Banks tumbled, and AIG
skidded about 4 percent after suing the government for bailing it out. Get
that one. On the bright side, Hewlett-Packard bouncing back after hours on
better-than-expected earnings it posted after the closing bell.

And that is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- and now back
to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is back on the front burner,
politically, after a video of campus police at U.C. Davis pepper-spraying -
- there it is -- see it all right there -- nonviolent protesters, and that
went viral this weekend.

Today, the campus police chief was put on administrative leave,
joining the two police officers who used the pepper spray -- all of them on
leave now. Eleven protesters were treated at the scene after being
sprayed, and two were sent to the hospital.

"The New York Times" reports that after the episode, a police official
said the officers felt threatened by the protesters. But in the video,
which we`re watching right now, the protesters don`t look threatening at
all. In fact, they look supine.

Then, on Saturday night, at the Family Leader Thanksgiving Forum in
Des Moines, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich disparaged the Occupy Wall
Street movement. Let`s listen to Newt adding insult to injury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All the Occupy movement
starts with the premise that we all owe them everything. They take over a
public park they didn`t pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn`t
pay for, to beg for food from places they don`t want to pay for, to
instruct those who are going to work to pay the taxes to sustain the
bathrooms and to sustain the park.

Now, that is a pretty good symptom of how much the left has collapsed
as a moral system in this country and why you need to reassert something as
simple as saying to them, go get a job right after you take a bath.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a pander bear.

That`s -- Cynthia Tucker is joining us right now. She is a political
columnist who is now a visiting professor at the University of Georgia.
Ron Christie is a Republican strategist and a resident fellow at the
Harvard University Institute of Politics, the IOP.

Ron Christie, what did you think of the pepper-Spraying, A., and what
did you think of Newt Gingrich adding insult to injury by saying, they`re
the bad people, the good people are the guys opposed to them?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, good
evening, Chris.

I was pretty appalled looking at that video of the students at U.C.
Davis. Here, these students aren`t protesting. Here, the students aren`t
battling with the police. Here, the students just appear to be sitting
there. And I wouldn`t call that pepper spray. I would say that was a
pepper hose.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CHRISTIE: I mean, this looked like excessive force for what the
students were doing, or, frankly, not doing.

As it relates to what -- what the former speaker had to say, I
understand what he`s saying. I don`t know that Occupy Wall Street is
necessarily 100 percent tied in with the left, but I do agree with the
sentiment that people need to get a permit to petition lawfully. They need
to occupy space where they are there legally.

And I think that, my wife included, who works in the financial
district in New York City, of blocking people`s ability to get to and from
work is a little bit excessive for me.

MATTHEWS: Do you think Newt Gingrich, who has made his career out of
lobbying, basically, selling influence through one means or another, should
be talking about people getting a job? His job notion is basically living
off of his experience as speaker and exerting his influence over the
government.

Is that a job?

CHRISTIE: Well, Chris, I think I founded Christie Strategies based on
my experience working on the Hill and in the White House. And I think
people certainly value counsel from people who have been there and done
that. So, yes, I think it`s a job. It certainly keeps me up late at night
and gets me up early in the morning.

MATTHEWS: Right. OK. So, Newt Gingrich is advising people to get
jobs like his, which is basically, you know, strategic advice on how to
manipulate Congress?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Particularly in Congress, right?

Ron, you worked in the executive branch. He`s talking about how to
manipulate members of Congress who are supposed to represent the people.
Newt teaches interest groups and people with money how to influence other
ways. Do what they want done.

TUCKER: On top of all that, Chris, I would argue that it is not
politically smart for any Republicans to be out there bashing the Occupy
Wall Street movement, because many, many Americans, they may not --
Americans may not identify with their tactics, but many Americans identify
with the income inequality argument that the protesters are getting out
there, out front.

And who is to say -- a lot of these folks, I went to Zuccotti Park
one morning about two weeks ago, talked to a lot of the protesters. Some
of them have looked for jobs and can`t find jobs in this economy.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: And so, this idea, you need to just go get a job -- tell
that to people who have been out of work for a long time and can`t find a
job.

MATTHEWS: Every time there`s a hotel job opening in any big city,
Ron, you know that, there`s like 2,000 or 3,000 guys, men usually, just
waiting in line for those jobs. Anyway, I think the Congress ought to take
a bath after what they did -- I mean, literally, after what they did on
that super committee. I wouldn`t be bragging about my white-collar job
right now.

Anyway, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, this guy is a piece of
work. He`s from Illinois. Maybe he should go back there. He criticized
the Occupy Wall Street movement at a town hall meeting on Saturday night,
saying the group`s proposed solutions were -- this is handy little phrase -
- anti-American. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: I generally think this whole Occupy
Wall Street stuff is a well-orchestrated, well-funded far-left effort to
disrupt the American people and drive up Obama`s left base -- young people
and a smattering of other people who don`t understand this country and they
are advocating anti-American solutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. They`re advocating anti-American solutions out there
on Occupy Wall Street.

Well, the congressmen then took a question from the audience about
veterans who have joined the Occupy Wall Street protests. Let`s listen to
that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What about the veterans that you see protesting
with Occupy Wall Street? Do you consider them anti-American?

WALSH: Yes.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You consider veterans who have fought in foreign
wars anti-American? That`s abysmal.

WALSH: I don`t know how many veterans are part of the Occupy
protests. I can`t imagine it`s many. But anyone who would advocate
socialist solutions to certain problems in this country, they don`t
understand this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re socialist, they`re anti-American, and I
don`t think he handled the issue whether -- how many are veterans. I think
that was a question he was sort of stumped by.

TUCKER: Well, like Newt Gingrich, he doesn`t know much about these
protesters at all. He doesn`t know who`s out there.

A veteran was seriously injured during a clash with police in Occupy
Oakland. Again, those protesters weren`t doing anything, and police came
in with excessive force. But let me --

MATTHEWS: By the way, he`s a deadbeat dad. Just to put things
straight. He owes $117,000 to his wife for child support.

So, his idea of talking about bums and all these people, the way they
talk, like they`re not clean on that point.

TUCKER: Well, they`re all irresponsible and trying to live off
somebody else, which is what they`re trying to tar them with. And it seems
to me that the Occupy Wall Street movement is very American. America is
supposed to be about opportunity for all, egalitarianism.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: And that`s what Occupy Wall Street is protesting for.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much.

Ron, we have to go right now. Thanks. I`ll get you next time.

We`ve got the president of the United States.

CHRISTIE: Fair enough.

MATTHEWS: Even you have to step aside for the president. Here he
comes, the president of the United States on the failure of the super
committee.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon.

As you all know, last summer, I signed a law that will cut nearly $1
trillion of spending over the next ten years. Part of that law also
required Congress to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion by
the end of this year. In September, I sent them a detailed plan that would
have gone above and beyond that goal. It`s a plan that would reduce the
deficit by an additional $3 trillion, by cutting spending, slowing the
growth in Medicare and Medicaid, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay
their fair share.

In addition to my plan, there were a number of other bipartisan plans
for them to consider from both Democrats and Republicans. All of which
promoted a balanced approach. This kind of balanced approach to reducing
our deficit, an approach where everybody gives a little bit, and everyone
does their fair share is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans
-- Democrats, independents, and Republicans. It`s supported by experts and
economists from all across the political spectrum.

And to their credit, many Democrats in Congress were willing to put
politics aside and commit to reasonable adjustments that would have reduced
the cost of Medicare, as long as they were part of a balanced approach.
But despite the broad disagreement that exists for such an approach, there
are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to
the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of
Washington. They continue to insist on protecting the $100 billion worth
of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, at any cost, even if
it means reducing the deficit with deep cuts to things like education and
medical research. Even it if means deep cuts in Medicare.

So, at this point, at least, they simply will not budge from that
negotiating position. And so far, that refusal continues to be the main
stumbling block that has prevented Congress from reaching an agreement to
further reduce our deficit.

Now, we are not in the same situation that we were in -- that we were
in in August. There`s no imminent threat to us defaulting on the debt that
we owe. There are already $1 trillion worth of spending cuts that are
locked in. And part of the law that I signed this summer stated that if
Congress could not reach an agreement on the deficit, there would be
another $1.2 trillion of automatic cuts in 2013, divided equally between
domestic spending and defense spending.

One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at
least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. That`s going to happen, one
way or another. We`ve got $1 trillion locked in and either Congress comes
up with $1.2 trillion, which so far they`ve failed to do, or the sequester
kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur that bring in an
additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

Now, the question right now is whether we can reduce the deficit in a
way that helps the economy grow, that operates with a scalpel, not with a
hatchet, and if not, whether Congress is willing to stick to the painful
deal that we made in August for the automatic cuts.

Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending
cuts.

My message to them is simple: No, I will veto any effort to get rid
of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There
will be no easy off-ramps on this one. We need to keep the pressure up to
compromise, not the turn off the pressure.

The only way these spending cuts will not take place is if Congress
gets back to work and agrees on a balanced plan to reduce the deficit by at
least $1.2 trillion. That`s exactly what they need to do. That`s the job
they promised to do.

And they`ve still got a year to figure it out. Although Congress has
not come to an agreement yet, nothing prevents them from coming up with an
agreement in the days ahead. They can still come together around a
balanced plan. I believe Democrats are prepared to do so.

My expectation is, is that there will be some Republicans who are
still interested in preventing the automatic cuts from taking place. And
as I have from the beginning, I stand ready and willing to work with
anybody that`s ready to engage in that effort to create a balanced plan for
deficit reduction.

Now, in the meantime, we`ve got a lot of work left to do this year.
Before Congress leaves next month, we have to work together to cut taxes
for workers and small business owners all across America. If we don`t act,
taxes will go up for every single American starting next year. And I`m not
about to let that happen.

Middle class Americans can`t afford to lose $1,000 next year because
Congress won`t act. And I can only hope that members of Congress who have
been fighting so hard to protect tax breaks for the wealthy will fight just
as hard to protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle class
families.

We still need to put construction workers back on the job, rebuilding
our roads and our bridges. We still need to put our teachers back in the
classroom educating our kids.

So, when everybody gets back from Thanksgiving, it`s time to get some
work done for the American people.

All around the country, Americans are working hard to live within
their means, and meet their responsibilities, and I know they expect
Washington to do the same.

Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Well, there it is, veni, vidi, veto. The president of the
United States saw what he saw today and he says I`m going to veto it --
Howard.

We got Howard Fineman here and Cynthia tucker.

Thank you for watching this with me.

It looks like the president has made the news for the nightly news
tonight, he`s going to veto any attempt to remove that automatic spending
cut of $1.2 trillion, a lot of it going into the cuts in defense. He`s not
going to allow them to dump that. He`s saying, if you want to get rid of
that, you got to replace it with somewhere else $1.2 trillion, that he`s
the deal. You got to stick to it.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right and he`s trying to do
that to cut off what the Republicans have already been talking about.

MATTHEWS: Buck McKeon from California talking about it.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Already talking about it for weeks. They want to get rid
of the so-called trigger cuts for the Pentagon, which is about $500 billion
over 10 years, and the president is saying if you try that, and if you
manage to buffalo the Democrats in Congress into voting for it, or if you
manage to overcome a filibuster. You know, if you get it passed and get it
to my desk, I will veto it. It`s got to stick to the $1.2 trillion.

You want to keep those defense cuts -- you want to restore those
defense cuts? Then try cutting something else, or --

MATTHEWS: Raising taxes.

FINEMAN: -- raise taxes.

MATTHEWS: Cynthia, this puts it basically the president in the
leadership position finally. Of course I like it, because it shows that
he`s the boss, because he is the one who sets the schedule in effect. He`s
telling them he knows how complicated it is for them to cook up a bill that
can come to his desk as an alternative for $1.2 trillion. He knows it`s
much harder than trying some softy bill that says no cuts.

TUCKER: Quite frankly, Chris, I think the president has exerted
leadership throughout this process. Did he sit in the super committee
meetings? No. What good would that have done? He spent months in the
summer trying to work out this grand bargain with John Boehner.

MATTHEWS: That`s still obtained. In other words, he said just now,
he said that I proposed then could have been the deal on the table a year
ago.

TUCKER: And it didn`t get anywhere because -- and let`s remember
also that members of his party were furious with him because he was putting
entitlements on the table. He talked about raising the age for Social
Security. He talked about substantial cuts to Medicare.

So, it`s not that the president wasn`t prepared to put a Democratic -
- things that are precious to Democrats on the table. He was.

Where did it get him? Nowhere and low poll numbers.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TUCKER: What followed from that was Republicans, he had to cave in
at the end to get the debt ceiling increase and his poll numbers began
plummeting. He didn`t look like a leader at that point.

MATTHEWS: OK. Now, we know what the plan was, if there was one.
Harry Reid came up with this Rube Goldberg thing where if they didn`t get
the spending cuts by agreement, they would become by machine basically.
Now, the president teaches us what he had in mind, right?

FINEMAN: Yes, he does, because the obvious hole in what the
Democrats were trying to do is that the trigger wasn`t a trigger if it
doesn`t take place until 2013. Republicans could try to come in and change
it, Democrats could try to come in and change it. The president made the
next move on the chess board here, and I think it`s the right one both
politically and substantively, because politics is a game of comparison.
The Congress had their chance, they look like complete dysfunctional
idiots.

MATTHEWS: All right. What happens when they join up with Leon
Panetta, the secretary of defense, a Democrat, Obama appointee, and start
wailing and do their gnashing of teeth saying the president is endangering
our fighting forces overseas by demanding other cuts as a choice --

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Well, then the president enlists Leon Panetta, who actually
began life in the old EOB of Richard Nixon a generation ago, and says to
him and says to all the Pentagon people, you got to help me sells -- if you
guys want your money, you got to get behind selling a compromise package of
some kind.

In other words, if you`re going to be drawn into the political game,
the president has to do some things he hasn`t done before, which is to
properly deploy his troops and his supporters and own cabinet to get out
there and help sell some kind of compromise.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s see if it works, Cynthia.

What I would be looking for -- Howard, good point.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You lead me into where I`d like to see this president do
more of and my criticism of, he doesn`t enlist confederates. He goes out
there like a solo act again tonight. Will see in the next couple of days,
hours perhaps, Harry Reid saying, "Good job, Mr. President, I`m with you
all the way"? Dick Durbin, "I`m with you"? Nancy Pelosi, the former
speaker, "I`m with you"?

Will they come or will they wait with their constituencies and wait
to hear from AARP and all of the other organizations and NEA, and say, oh,
I got to check with my peeps out there before I find out who my leader is?

TUCKER: Well, let`s hope the president has learned something. He is
entering a very, very tough re-election battle.

He needs people like Nancy Pelosi. She`s a good soldier to deploy.
He needs her out there. He certainly needs Harry Reid out there.

MATTHEWS: Will see any salutes tonight, Howard? "Thank you, Mr.
President, we know which way we`re going now, we`re going to need to get a
substitute $1.2 trillion cut or we`re going to go with what we`ve got"?

FINEMAN: Yes. I think he`ll get -- I think he`ll get some. I think
he`ll get quite a bit because for no other reason than the leaders of
Congress, including the Democrats, realize how poorly they look in the eyes
of the American people. So, they`re going to want to climb aboard the only
boat that`s still floating, which is the president`s.

MATTHEWS: Is he saying basically if he`s really tough, I don`t know,
"If you guys want to save defense, start paying for it"?

TUCKER: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Raise some taxes to pay for it.

TUCKER: That has been where he was coming from all the time. He`s,
you know, he isn`t trying to take a sledgehammer to the Defense Department,
but he does want Republicans to own up to what it costs to run that kind of
military.

FINEMAN: Don`t forget also --

TUCKER: It costs real money.

FINEMAN: -- Leon Panetta was budget director at one point, and he
was chief of staff in the White House. I don`t mean to dwell on him
specifically. But he`s the example of somebody who could get in the ball
game to protect his own bureaucracy but also to create a deal for the whole
country.

TUCKER: Let`s also remember how one of the ways we got this huge sea
of red ink, unfunded wars during the Bush administration. You don`t go to
war and cut taxes at the same time. George W. Bush was the first president
in history to do that.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s talk about that because that`s a good starting
point. You and I were talking earlier tonight and I think it`s probably an
excellent point. Let me help you embellish on it.

Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008 but he
inherited policies which he`s had a hard time changing. One of the
policies was the Iraq war, which has ground down and it is going to end at
the end of this. So, that`s happening. Somewhere in that will come some
savings by not spending billions on that war, billions a day practically.

But he also inherited the ratchet effect, something you can`t pull
away from once you go to. Cutting taxes is fun and the brutality of a tax
cut, it`s very hard to go back up again once you`ve gone down.

How does this take him from that? How does he succeed Bush instead
of just inheriting the job in terms of policy?

FINEMAN: He`s got to follow through on the veto threat now that he`s
made it and he`s got to make it credible and got to make the real trigger
to get people to do a deal. I think that this debate is going to continue
all the way through the presidential election. I think it`s going to
define the presidential election.

MATTHEWS: This particular thing he did today?

FINEMAN: Yes, this particular thing he did today, because it really
is going to come down to taxes and spending.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FINEMAN: You need a little bit of both to make it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s look at the fight coming right now. Cynthia
and Howard, this is interesting. So, you can expect by tomorrow morning
that John McCain will come out and say, how dare he jeopardize defense
spending?

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: This is a game he`s playing.

You`ll hear from Buck McKeon, who is the chairman of that committee
in California. You know, these guys, all they do is appropriate spending
for defense. That`s what they do -- they love to spend as much as they
can.

You know, you`re smiling because the game is about to be played.
These guys will raise bloody hell about the fact that there might be a
dollar cut in defense spending, right? And the president will have to say
that, "No, I`m not cutting defense. I`m simply saying if you don`t cut
defense, you have to cut someplace else or raise taxes."

TUCKER: Well, I would argue two things, though. I would argue that
they`re about to touch the Pentagon, they`re about to cut defense, doesn`t
have nearly the resonance with the American public that it did 10 years
ago, when al Qaeda was such a clear and present danger.

At the moment, the American people are talking about rebuilding at
home. If you have to cut the Pentagon to do that, they`re war-weary,
that`s fine with them.

But there was something else that the president said in that press
conference a little while ago. He talked about "Let`s extend the cut in
the payroll tax. I hope these folks who fight as hard to cut taxes for the
rich will also care about cutting for the middle class." That is a winning
political argument for him. Let`s raise taxes on the rich.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to this one thing: if you listen to the
president`s words tonight, he said, the only thing that`s going to stop
this sequestration, this $1.2 trillion cut largely in defense is one thing,
an actual bill coming to my desk.

I love the beauty of that, because that requires the Democratic House
and Democratic Senate and the Republican House to agree in conference on a
bill that comes to him ready to be signed as an alternative to the $1.2
trillion cuts in defense and the other areas, right?

FINEMAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: He has raised the bar so high the chance of them getting
their act together and jam -- the Republicans -- and jamming a bipartisan
deal through both houses is almost 1 billion to 1.

FINEMAN: That`s probably true.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s got a move there.

FINEMAN: But he sees the high ground here strategically and now,
he`s got to follow through it. He`s got to have a team to do it with.
He`s got to have a team to do it.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to wait for it. I want to see the allies
arrive. I want the confederates coming over the Hill, the cavalry charges
now. Let`s see if Durbin, Pelosi, the rest, the guys to get to a camera
TV, let`s if they`re out tonight saluting the president`s brilliance.

Anyway, we do here -- at least I do.

Howard Fineman, you can. Cynthia, you sort of can. But I`m saluting
him.

Anyway, Mr. President, go for it.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. We`ll be right
back at one hour with a new edition of HARDBALL.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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