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updated 1/17/2012 12:10:37 PM ET 2012-01-17T17:10:37

Guests: Julia Boorstin, David Corn, Ezra Klein, Mike Allen, James Clyburn, Rick Tyler, Susan Page, Robert Jones

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Bain, Bain, go away. Come again some other day.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
Tonight`s forecast, heavy Bain. Newt says he he won`t stop. He`s going
after Mitt Romney for his work at Bain Capital. A lot of conservatives
have decided to cease and desist, but Newt`s going all out, figuring this
is his last, best shot to do to Mitt in South Carolina what Mitt did to him
in Iowa.

Plus, it`s now or never for evangelicals who want someone, anyone, to
stop Mitt Romney. But who? We may find out this weekend.

Also, PAC-man. Stephen Colbert says he may run for president. He`s
handing control of his allegedly independent super-PAC to Jon Stewart, of
course. Colbert is making a larger point here that PACs, super-PACs, like
the one Mitt Romney`s using to destroy Newt Gingrich, aren`t independent
at all.

And oops, he did it again. Believe it or not, once again, Rick Perry
can`t remember the three government departments he wants to eliminate.
Funny, most people can think of at least one candidacy they`d like to
eliminate.

And "Let Me Finish" with my 10-week tour of America, just finished.

We begin with the attacks on Mitt Romney for his work at Bain Capital.
Rick Tyler -- what a great get he is. He`s former Gingrich spokesman who`s
now with the super-PAC Winning Our Future, the group that`s putting out the
ads against Romney.

Well, it`s great to have you on. How do you get a job running a
super-PAC? I mean, I know I`m going for information here and actual news,
but how do you -- did Newt call you up? Did somebody who knows Newt, who
knows that guy who knows Newt -- how does it happen that you become a PAC-
man?

RICK TYLER, WINNING OUR FUTURE SUPER-PAC: Well, I was interested in
helping Newt. When I decided to help Newt, and I understood that there was
a PAC being formed to help Newt, and I knew who was doing that. And I made
a phone call and -- to see if I could help. And that`s how it happened.

But you know, look, these PACs are an abomination. We should return
back to the old way of letting candidates raise all the money, make it
transparent so people can see where the money comes from and to quit this
shell game. And that would make...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TYLER: ... you know, these PACs obsolete.

MATTHEWS: Does your PAC intend to help Newt Gingrich defeat Mitt
Romney in South Carolina? Is that the goal of your PAC?

TYLER: Yes, it is. And apparently, it`s having some effect. I saw
three separate polls today that have Newt within -- one -- two -- I think
two of which were in the margin of error. So he`s in second place now in
South Carolina. And so we have a straight-up race between a Southern
Georgia conservative and a Massachusetts moderate.

MATTHEWS: It should be interesting. Campaigning today in Miami, Newt
Gingrich, your candidate, continued his attacks on Romney. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The
only place (ph) he worked with Bain -- he claims he created 100,000 jobs.
"The Washington Post" two days ago reported in their fact check column that
he gets three Pinocchios.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: Now, a Pinocchios what you get from "The Post" if you`re
not telling the truth. We thought about doing an ad where the nose gets
longer (INAUDIBLE) be a pretty long nose.

(LAUGHTER)

GINGRICH: But that -- we`re not going to do that. But I just
challenged Governor Romney. Release the records. Show us the facts. You
can`t run for president, have half your campaign be about your great
achievements, and then hide them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s your South Carolina ad running right now
that`s attacking Romney`s career at Bain, taken from a full-length movie
that Gingrich today called -- called to be edited or pulled because of its
inaccuracies. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney.
The company was Bain Capital, more ruthless than Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pulled the rug out from under our plant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody was fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They fire people. They cut benefits. They sell
assets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and them guys, they don`t care who I
am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that is a man that destroyed us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winning Our Future is responsible for the content
of this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, your response for the content? Are you happy with
its accuracy, Rick? Because there are reports today that there are
actually people who have been quoted -- actually shown on camera in that
documentary who have later said and more recently said they were taken out
of context and they don`t like it being shown the way it is being shown.

TYLER: Well, we`re checking into that because we want to get it right
and we want -- we`ve checked and we`ve double-checked, and we`ll have a
response. And we want to honor Newt Gingrich`s call that if it`s
inaccurate, we`ll make the adjustments. But right now, we`re standing by
the film.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Newt Gingrich as a person. I got to
interview him last week. He gave me an interview. You know, I find him
impossible to figure out. He will say the most terrible things, especially
about anybody that gets in his way that -- you know, Chris Dodd ought to be
in prison. Barney Frank ought to be in prison. He says this horrible,
opportunistic stuff. And then when you sit down with him, he`s got a very
smart brain, a great sense of history.

How do you put together -- well, I`ll say it -- the good and the bad
and the ugly of Newt Gingrich?

TYLER: Well, Chris, I think you once called him the devil incarnate
yourself. So I mean...

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I said it to him in his -- you didn`t catch my
interview with him.

TYLER: No.

MATTHEWS: I said, You`re not always Mephistopheles, and it didn`t
seem to bother him for a second.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Now, what an odd thing to say to a politician, You`re not
always the devil.

TYLER: You know, I`ve never met anybody like Newt Gingrich. He
doesn`t hold grudges. He -- he can be very confrontational when he needs
to be. But basically, I found him to be a very caring individual. I think
he and Callista and their family and their daughters and son-in-laws like
my family.

So they never sort of separated me aside and said, You`re staff. I
attended their wedding. I`ve gone to their grandchildren`s birthday
parties. And so, you know, I just love and admire the Gingriches. And I
feel sort of isolated from them because I`m in this PAC and I`m not
supposed to communicate with them.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s a pro-Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future.
It started attacking Gingrich down in -- you can take a look at this one.
I guess you can look at this one. Let`s watch. This is the ad going after
your guy, Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich`s attacks are called foolish, out
of bounds, and disgusting. Newt attacks because he has more baggage than
the airlines. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations, took $1.6
million from Freddie Mac and co-sponsored a bill with Nancy Pelosi that
would have given $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China`s
brutal one-child policy. Don`t be fooled by Newt`s desperate attacks.

Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So Rick, Newt Gingrich, your candidate, has given money to
help the Chinese limit their families to one child. You know, that`s
pretty -- is that true or not?

TYLER: I think...

MATTHEWS: I don`t think -- it doesn`t sound true, but your thoughts.

TYLER: Not to my knowledge. It doesn`t sound like Newt Gingrich to
me. Does it to you? I mean, people in South Carolina know Newt Gingrich.
But it shouldn`t be surprising. I mean, Mitt Romney`s whole entire
campaign is based on misleading utterances that are at odds with his
record. And so it shouldn`t be surprising.

Yesterday, I read in the HuffingtonPost that the net-net number of
100,000 jobs would -- only included the positive jobs and didn`t include
the negative jobs. So while he`s got Staples and Sports Authority that
sell imported products from mostly China, or that are manufactured
overseas, in fact, he doesn`t count the jobs where he took apart the
companies and sent their jobs overseas. So I suppose that`s fitting.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you got your shot in there. We`ll see. But
most of that ad we just saw against him was accurate, except for the
Chinese part, right?

TYLER: I don`t think any of it was accurate.

MATTHEWS: Is there anything in that ad that was wrong? You didn`t
mention anything.

TYLER: That ad...

MATTHEWS: Well, he was fined.

TYLER: That ad looked like it was...

MATTHEWS: He was fined. He was reprimanded.

TYLER: No, no, no. Chris, he was reprimanded, and I`ll tell you why,
because he put a name to a legal document prepared by counsel that
described a political action committee as a foundation. Now, in most of
the rest of the country, that would require a phone call to say, Isn`t
GOPAC a political action committee? And they said -- and instead, you
know, in Washington, it`s a $300,000 investigation. To put it behind
him...

MATTHEWS: OK...

TYLER: ... he paid for the investigation and he paid for it out of
his own pocket. I`d call that a new standard of ethics, not a low in
ethics.

MATTHEWS: You`re a good defender, sir. Thank you, Rick Tyler.
Please come back on the program.

TYLER: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

MATTHEWS: Even though you don`t coordinate -- even though you don`t
coordinate with Newt Gingrich, it`s nice to...

TYLER: I talk to you right through...

MATTHEWS: ... see you endorsing him.

TYLER: ... this camera. That`s what I do.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

TYLER: I appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for "USA Today," who
has no candidate in this race and never has had a candidate that I know of.

This thing is -- I mean, he laughs about it. I mean, it`s almost like
Steve Colbert making a joke. We`re going to talk about him later in this
show. This super-PAC thing adds to the cynicism of the American voter.
They`re watching ads. People that watch this kind of program know what`s
going on. They see the ads. They`re slamming the other guy, trashing him.
And they don`t even say at the end of it, I`m Newt Gingrich and I paid for
this ad, or I`m Mitt Romney. There`s no honesty here.

SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, there`s no transparency, that`s for
sure. And these ads are -- there are so many of them, $3.4 million worth
in South Carolina from the Gingrich PAC, and more than that from Restore
our Future.

MATTHEWS: Yes, $2.2 million for the pro-Romney, $1.9 million for the
pro-Perry, $1.8 million for the Gingrich, three quarters of a million for
the Santorum, a third of a million for the Paul ad. And even $50K for the
Huntsman ad.

PAGE: It`s not that big a state, you know?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PAGE: It`s, like, you turn on the TV, all you`re going to do is get a
barrage of ads that tell you what`s wrong with all of these candidates.

MATTHEWS: Well, do you think, watching this campaign, what it might
have to do is the effect of flattening out the number, that nobody is going
to get a fat number? In fact, Newt attacks Mitt, those voters may say, OK,
I don`t like either one of these guys, so I`ll go to -- I`ll go to Santorum
or I`ll go to Perry.

PAGE: Well, look what happened in both Iowa and New Hampshire,
turnout not up the way that Republicans had hoped it would be. It was up
to 247,000 in...

MATTHEWS: And you know why? Negative advertising depresses voting.

PAGE: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Because people go, Ugh! Right?

PAGE: Yes. Yes. So it helps -- it helps people who have a strong
core vote. This is good for Ron Paul because his voters are going to turn
out regardless.

MATTHEWS: Because nobody attacks Ron Paul.

PAGE: And Romney`s got a national organization. But it does -- it
does discourage everybody else.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s take a look. Here`s the Romney campaign itself,
not the super-PAC. It`s actually going on the defensive. Here`s Romney
with enough bucks to do this, defending himself on an ad in South Carolina.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a business Mitt Romney helped start.
And this one. And this steel mill. Mitt Romney helped create and ran a
company that invested in struggling businesses, grew new ones, and rebuilt
old ones, creating thousands of jobs of. Those are the facts. We expected
the Obama administration to put free markets on trial. But as "The Wall
Street Journal" said, Mr. Romney`s GOP opponents are embarrassing
themselves by taking the Obama line.

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m Mitt
Romney, and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I notice they quoted "The Examiner" in Washington, which I
always start my day with, but it`s a bit right-wing. Let me go to this --
this thing. Here`s what I think is interesting. Everybody says this race
is over because Romney`s going to win it. You hear it all around, the
buzz.

But look at this. Back in 2000, McCain got blown away -- I`m sorry --
he won New Hampshire. Then he comes down and wins -- I`m sorry -- McCain
won New Hampshire, came down to South Carolina and got blown away.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: He won in South Carolina because Fred Thompson stayed in, the
opposition to McCain was divided. And that set McCain for a comeback after
he finished fourth in Iowa.

MATTHEWS: This is the last time. I`m talking about the time before,
back in 2000.

PAGE: All right. Yes. Right.

MATTHEWS: McCain won big in New Hampshire...

PAGE: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... and everybody thought he was going to be the nominee.
So in other words, South Carolina can still do a 180 on what happened in
New Hampshire, can`t it.

PAGE: Well, that`s exactly right. And think about the economy of
South Carolina, which is in pretty bad shape. These voices we saw in that
earlier ad of people from South Carolina saying, Mitt Romney`s Bain Capital
destroyed our community, cost our...

MATTHEWS: Now, why would somebody in South Carolina -- just put the -
- put the heat on Romney really strong for a second. He`s a Massachusetts
moderate, by record, because when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was
a moderate. He was pro-choice. He was -- he got the health care bill
through that Obama used for the model, et cetera, et cetera. He`s a
Mormon, which is not a big plus down there among the evangelicals. There`s
the natural geographic rivalry between North and South, especially over
textiles and things like that, all the history back in trade.

Why would he win?

PAGE: He`d win because the opposition to him is divided and he`d win
because he`s run a pretty good campaign. And you know, Republicans may not
love Mitt Romney, but they love the idea of beating Barack Obama. And if
they think Mitt Romney has a way to do that, why, he could do pretty well.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I saw a number, by the way, 91 percent of
evangelicals support him against Obama. Anyway, thank you, Susan Page.

Coming up: It`s now or never for evangelicals -- I just spoke of them
-- who want to stop Mitt Romney. But do they agree on which conservative
candidate? No. They don`t have an agreement on anybody to get behind. It
could be Santorum. It could be Perry. It could be Gingrich. They don`t
know which of the guys to go against him (INAUDIBLE) in fact, that also
includes Ron Paul, who`s very pro-life. They don`t know where to go. They
may divide up and let Mitt Romney win this whole shebang.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Obama is asking Congress now for power to
streamline the federal government. For starters, the president wants to
combine the six government agencies that deal with trade and business,
something he says will make it easier for businesses to grow.

But he needs approval from Congress, the Republican Congress, to do so.
Smaller, more efficient government is something Republicans say they`re
for, but they might not want to give the president what he wants,
especially because they love making the charge that he`s for big
government.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. This weekend, on a private ranch outside
Houston, about 150 leaders in the conservative evangelical Christian
community will meet with one objective, to stop Mitt Romney. But even
pillars of the evangelical movement concede it`s a long shot. Richard
Land, for example -- he`s president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He used a dating analogy to
describe the problem.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Before we marry the guy
next door, don`t you think we ought to have a fling with the tall, dark
stranger and see if he can be -- if he can support us in the manner that we
would like to be accustomed? And if he can`t, we can always marry the
steady beau who lives next door.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, someone had to -- executive producer John Reese (ph)
had to explain this to me. The steady beau next door in this parable is
Mitt Romney. Well, can the group of evangelicals really affect the GOP
race?

Dr. Robert Jones heads the nonpartisan Public Religion Research
Institute. Melinda Henneberger is a political reporter for "The Washington
Post," who anchors and edits the blog "She the People."

Well, here we go. What`s going to happen down there at this -- I like
this new term -- Mitt Romney calls it a "quiet room" somewhere to do tax
policy. Now we`re going to have a "quiet ranch" where you do religion
policy.

ROBERT JONES, PUBLIC RELIGION RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Right. Well, I
think the main thing this tells us really is about the decline of an older
model of elite power brokering, really, that has seen its heyday. You
know, really gone are the days that a group of men are going to sit in a
room and decide who the candidate is going to be. After all, let`s look at
when this is happening, right? It`s right before South Carolina. This is
the last stand in many ways. It really is a triage kind of emergency
meeting.

MATTHEWS: Does this bother these most -- they`re all Protestants, I
think -- that they really have about two Catholics to choose from right
now, the convert -- just to be funny about it -- the convert Newt Gingrich
or the long-time, lifelong Catholic Rick Santorum? And these are largely a
Protestant organization.

JONES: Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... not the ideal circumstance, is it.

JONES: The evangelical-turned Catholic or the Catholic evangelical to
pick from.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You are a pro!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, is that going to be a conundrum for them, so they
don`t have to pick the Mormon?

JONES: Well, it obviously is a conundrum...

MATTHEWS: And how much of it is Mormon...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Well, you know, that`s a really good question here. I mean,
what we`ve seen in this campaign is that Mitt Romney has failed to sew it
up time and time again. We`ve seen candidates come up, candidates come
down, candidates come up, candidates come down. And it really is --
certainly, on the issues...

MATTHEWS: When does he come down?

JONES: Well, here`s the -- here`s the...

MATTHEWS: When does he come down?

JONES: Romney?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

JONES: I think Romney`s been pretty steady...

MATTHEWS: OK.

JONES: ... but he hasn`t been able to lock down -- (INAUDIBLE) hasn`t
been able to lock down these other candidates surging to the top. And one
of the reasons -- he certainly has some issues where evangelicals have some
reservations. But the other thing he has really is that half of the
evangelicals say they don`t consider the Mormon faith a Christian religion
and about half of them say they`d be at least somewhat uncomfortable with a
Mormon president.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but two thirds of other Protestants and two thirds of
Catholics, Melinda, believe the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
is Christian.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well...

MATTHEWS: So it`s only the evangelicals who in their own world single
out the LDS church or the Mormon church as not being part of the Christian
faith.

HENNEBERGER: But if you look at how they say they`ll vote, they say
that they will vote in equal numbers with other Republicans. I think the
thing is...

MATTHEWS: Even when it comes to a choice between Obama and...

HENNEBERGER: Yes. Yes. In the general, their turnout rates are
going to be the same, from what I see. I think they want to be taken
seriously. They want to seem like they`re still players.

MATTHEWS: Do they have any money?

HENNEBERGER: (INAUDIBLE) really not.

MATTHEWS: I hate to be blunt about this and gross, but if they don`t
have any money to put ads on TV, in this world we`re in right now, they
don`t count.

JONES: Right. Well, certainly compared to the super PACs, I don`t
think they...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They`re not going to drop a couple million bucks in
Florida, for example.

JONES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look.

Tony Perkins is a guy we respect. He`s with the Family Research
Council. He`s organizing that Texas meeting. He says -- quote -- "Some
have portrayed this as an anti-Romney rally, a bash-Mitt weekend. It`s
not. What is driving it is discomfort with Mitt Romney among evangelicals
and the search for another candidate."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s an easy way of saying I don`t like the guy,
but it sounds nicer. Right?

JONES: Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: And is it religion or is it philosophy?

JONES: I think, for evangelicals -- you`re right to single out
evangelicals.

For white evangelical Protestants particularly in the South, it really
is about theology. It really is discomfort. Some of it is certainly
issues and issues where they perceive sort of a flip-flop. But it really
does come down a serious issue with theology.

HENNEBERGER: But he`s doing better with evangelicals than you would
have thought.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Want proof of that? Romney leads in a "TIME"/CNN poll of
likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina who identify themselves
as born-again Christians. Here`s the breakdown. This is among the
evangelicals, the born-again people of the more fundamentalist faiths,
Romney at 35 percent, dominant. Santorum behind him at 22 percent.
Gingrich alongside at 20. Paul at 15 percent. Perry at 3 percent, the guy
who is making the biggest deal about his religion.

The New Hampshire exit polls show that among evangelicals up there,
Romney got 31 percent, far ahead of Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt
Gingrich. Iowa evangelicals went heavily for Rick Santorum because he
played particularly to them at 32. Paul got 18 percent up there of the
vote. And Gingrich, Perry and Romney were tied at 14 percent. Michele
Bachmann got only 6 percent.

Here`s a wild idea. Even though people have religious faith, they do
render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar`s and to God the things that
are God. And there is no way of predicting someone`s vote by their
religion. I look at those numbers and I say Romney is doing better among
evangelicals than anybody else.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: They want to win. They want to win. I heard from
voters over and over again, yes, would he be my first choice? No. But my
first choice is somebody who can beat Obama.

MATTHEWS: They don`t have a first choice.

HENNEBERGER: And I think -- that`s right. It`s too late for them to
come up with a first choice in this race. And even if they did, they
really want to win in the fall.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: And I have heard people say, look, I realize I don`t
have the luxury anymore of being a single-issue voter on abortion.

MATTHEWS: Right.

HENNEBERGER: This year, I`m a Republican who wants my candidate...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And if Rick Perry wasn`t just a balloon, if they had blown
him up to the size -- he looked great. Rick Perry is a governor. He looks
great. He looks like a Texan. He`s got great hair, all the things you
need in politics these days. What else did he have? He had a record of
unemployment going down in Texas and creating jobs. He talked right. The
minute he got out on that stage, he stumbled. And he`s Protestant, I
should say.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: It may be a little bit more complex than that, because let`s
think about Mike Huckabee, for example, right? We had Mike Huckabee. If
there were a ready-made evangelical candidate...

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: But he had no money.

(CROSSTALK)

HENNEBERGER: And he did an awesome job with the two cents he had...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a really good question?

JONES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Because I am very much for religious tolerance and I really
don`t like this conversation, but I have to do it. It`s part of my job.

Did Jack Kennedy being Catholic once he was president have anything to
do with what he did? Did Richard Nixon being a Quaker have anything to do
with what he did as president? Does religion at all in a general term
guide you -- your particular affiliation, does it guide you in any way
really to your policies?

JONES: Yes. Well, we...

MATTHEWS: You said yes, but yes or no?

JONES: When we look at the research, what we actually find is that
partisanship -- after 1972 and into the Reagan years, partisanship actually
matters more than religious affiliation.

MATTHEWS: Well, of course it does, because partisanship is based on
policy.

HENNEBERGER: But it`s a different day than Kennedy`s day. Kennedy
ran on putting his Catholicism aside in a way that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: George Romney right now for president. When his father
ran, it never came up. The issue of his religion never came up. Nixon`s
religion of Quakerism never came up.

HENNEBERGER: Rick Santorum says he hears Kennedy`s speech on religion
and I think his term was, makes me want to vomit.

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s a Republican, he`s a Republican.

HENNEBERGER: So this is a different crew. But he has a different
view of the role of religion in public life.

MATTHEWS: Kennedy`s speech on religion was a masterpiece, because it
basically said the issue is not what church I believe in, it`s what America
I believe in. And the only question we should ask of a question is what
kind of America do you believe in?

And that`s what we don`t have a religious test in our Constitution and
why people in their hearts shouldn`t have one. If the guy is a religious
fanatic and that`s all he talks about, pay attention to that. But if he
talks about the issues we care about, like education and protecting this
country and creating jobs, I think we should judge him on that.

And that`s my very short sermon today.

Thank you Dr. Jones.

JONES: Thank you. I remember that name from "Indiana Jones."

MATTHEWS: And Melinda Henneberger.

"Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones."

And Melinda Henneberger, my pal.

Up next, oops. Rick Perry has done it again. This is really
unbelievable. He`s botched -- it`s only three. It`s only three. And he
can`t get it straight. Wait until you catch him doing it again.

This is unbelievable. You`re watching HARDBALL Friday night on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up, opening up old wounds. John McCain and Mike Huckabee may
have opted to stay out of the 2012 presidential race, but that doesn`t mean
there isn`t some lingering tension between the two former opponents. The
charge? That during the last primary season, McCain encouraged former
Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson to stay in the race and thereby split the
social conservative vote in South Carolina and give McCain the upper hand.

Here`s Huckabee leveling the charge yesterday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Here`s what happened.
John certainly encourage Fred to stay in. I think everyone understood Fred
knew that he was not going to get the nomination. Fred Thompson`s vote
totals in the upstate really took into ours. And John won handily down in
the south part around Charleston. And that`s ultimately what did it. But
you know what? That`s politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Do you think John McCain, knowing him, let that one go?
Far from it. Here is hitting back just a few hours later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It`s totally, patently false. And for
him to say something like that, maybe it makes him feel better, but it`s
not the truth. The fact is that Fred Thompson was viewed as a viable
candidate.

It`s not necessarily so that he took all of Huckabee`s votes. I had a
lot of votes there.

All I can say to Governor Huckabee, good luck in your programming on
FOX, but you`re not telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, this morning, Fred Thompson denied making any
arrangement with John McCain.

And this time around, it`s Mitt who could sneak away with a win if
conservatives don`t pick one and just one of their own, instead dividing
the vote.

McCain took a break from sparring with Huckabee to sit down with David
Letterman discussing, among other things, how his party is faring in the
lead-up to this 2012 presidential election. Let`s watch.

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

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": How do you
think things are going for your party, the Grand Old Party? How`s it
going, Senator?

MCCAIN: Well, we have had better days.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Yes.

It seems kill now everybody has gone wacky in the Republican Party.
And I just wondered, is it -- was it the influence of the Tea Party? Or am
I overexamining this?

MCCAIN: You`re overexamining it, as usual.

How many people have watched one of these debates? I will bet you
everybody in this...

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN: Right.

MCCAIN: It`s good for the process.

LETTERMAN: Right.

MCCAIN: It`s good to see whether somebody is a wacko or whether
they`re not a wacko.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: No shortage there. But...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In fairness, we are down a few cast members in the
Republican clown show since it got under way.

But speaking of that, oops, he did it again. It will be a long time
before any of us forget this tragic moment for Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third agency of
government, I would -- I would do away with the Education, the...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commerce.

PERRY: Commerce. And let`s see. I can`t. The third one, I can`t.
Sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: Oops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oops.

And as we all know now, the missing link was the Department of Energy.
Old story, right?

Well, during a radio appearance in South Carolina today, early today,
Perry took another shot at it and missed. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PERRY: Three right off the bat, Commerce, Interior and Energy are
three that you think of right off the bat.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Interior? Well, that`s the first time Interior has made
that kill list. And what happened to Education? That`s what makes me
think he`s not even giving this thing much thought at all.

Perry, you keep doing it, "oops"ing again.

Up next: Stephen Colbert says he may run for president. He`s got his
buddy Jon Stewart running his super PAC. It may be a joke, but Colbert has
got a serious point to make, that super PAC aren`t independent at all. And
that`s ahead.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow loses 49 points. The S&P 500 slipped six and the Nasdaq falls
14 points. S&P is downgrading the credit ratings of nine Eurozone
countries, including France, Spain, and Italy. Fears about those imminent
downgrades sent the euro to its 17-month low against the dollar with
European indices also ending lower.

Meanwhile, earnings from J.P. Morgan expectations, but revenue fell
short. That helped the stock down 2.5 percent and other financials
struggled as well. Bank of America is reportedly considering a retreat
from some markets if its financial troubles persist. According to "The
Wall Street Journal," emergency measures also take into account the
performance of Merrill Lynch, which B-of-A bought back in 2008.

And Apple shares fell after it released an audit of its major
suppliers. The company said it found a number of violations in China
related to labor, pay, and environmental practices.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I`m proud to announce
that I am forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my
possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South
Carolina.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: I`m doing it!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: And with your help, and possibly the help of some sort of
outside group that I`m not coordinating with, we can explore taking this
country back.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

COLBERT: Thank you. God bless you all! And God bless Citizens
United!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That`s the Stephen Colbert, the great Stephen Colbert, his ongoing
satire now about the money in politics, super PAC system, and it continued
last night.

As you just saw, he announced his plan to consider running for
president thanks to a new poll this week that showed he`s actually ahead of
Jon Huntsman, really, in South Carolina. Well, the fake commentator formed
a very real super PAC this summer called Americans For a Better Tomorrow
Tomorrow. He said it twice, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: And last night, he continued the political send-up. He
stepped down from his super PAC, since under FEC rules, technically,
candidates cannot directly coordinate the groups, which can raise unlimited
amounts of money from anybody to support candidates.

Of course, what constitutes coordination is often a very murky
question.

Who took over Colbert`s PAC? None other than his Comedy Central
partner Jon Stewart. It`s all part of the satire. And we will get into it
right now.

David Corn is an expert on policy, MSNBC political analyst and
Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones." And Mike Allen is chief White
House correspondent for Politico. By the way, he was on Colbert`s show
after the big announcement last night.

You know, it`s funny. All the writing we do, all the commentary I do,
everything we do, every guest we do doesn`t match the firepower of this
kind of Steve Colbert thing. And you were on that show.

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO.COM: Right.

MATTHEWS: How did you manage to get on that show, there when he did
this?

ALLEN: Well, Chris, it gave me the opportunity to see up close, both
from Stephen Colbert and from his staff, that they take their satire
seriously.

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: And he clearly is ridiculing the process here, but he also
aims to illuminate the process.

And Stephen Colbert viewers know the difference between a PAC and a
super PAC. HARDBALL viewers do, but there aren`t a lot more. And he`s not
just making a one-shot sketch. We have learned that next week, his super
PAC is going to buy attack ads on South Carolina TV. And next week on his
show, he`s going to pursue his exploratory committee, show how an
exploratory committee works.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s great. The average person -- most people
turn on the TV, they watch regular shows. They don`t watch Politico shows.

But if you were in -- you and I were up in New Hampshire or in Iowa.
You can`t get away from politics. You don`t have to watch HARDBALL. Just
turn on any TV show, and right in the middle of it, whatever it is, there`s
a blasting ad trashing somebody. And then at the end of it, it says paid
for by Vocation for the Future or some stupid -- Restore the Future. And
you don`t even know who paid for it.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Right.

Well, New Hampshire is a civics lesson. And now Stephen Colbert is
giving us another civics lesson. He`s doing it with a lot of humor, but
he`s making fun of this fiction that candidates go out there -- their best
buddies or their fathers or their consultants...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here they are. Colbert and Stewart poked fun at the loose
rules last night governing how super PACs are run.

Here they are with Colbert`s real-life attorney, real-life lawyer,
Trevor Potter, discussing the rules.

CORN: Who used to be at the FEC.

MATTHEWS: Which is a riot. Wait until you hear how -- the truth is
funnier than fiction. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Can I run ads
supporting Stephen Colbert, who I believe in very deeply, and perhaps
attacking his potential opponents, who I don`t believe in at all?

(LAUGHTER)

TREVOR POTTER, ATTORNEY FOR STEPHEN COLBERT: Yes, you can, as long as
you do not coordinate.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: Well, that`s interesting.

OK, Jon, I guess you had better leave, for fear that we would
coordinate with each other.

STEWART: I wouldn`t want that.

COLBERT: I cannot let you know my plan.

STEWART: I don`t want to know.

COLBERT: From now on, Jon, from now on, I will just have to talk about
my plans on my television show and just take the risk that you might watch
it.

COLBERT: I don`t even know when it`s on 11:30 Monday through
Thursday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, we are listening (ph) tonight with Rick Tyler, who`s
lucky enough to come on our show. I mean, fortunately for us to come on
his show.

Here`s Rick Tyler recent aide to Newt Gingrich, right? He was his
press guy, his spokesman, knowing exactly what Newt wants to say. He now
joins the PAC that`s promoting the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, supposedly
not coordinating -- well, they are not coordinating on the telephone,
obviously, but he knows exactly the message which will help Newt.

CORN: This is the problem with Citizens United. At the very end of
Steve Colbert`s political rally last night, with the balloons falling, what
did he say? God bless Citizens United -- because this was a court decision
that allowed super PACs to grow.

The Supreme Court, they were not in the real world. This idea that
you can have a separation without coordination and that`s what makes this
OK is completely false and ludicrous, which is why Steven Colbert and Jon
Stewart have such an easy time making fun of this.

MATTHEWS: You know, you guys weren`t around during Watergate.
Watergate was supposed to end all this crap. Watergate showed the excesses
of dirty money in politics with the big names like Clement Stone
bankrolling President Nixon like by the millions, people like that, just
tones of money so they created all these limits like you can only give
$2,300 to each candidate, each election. All these limits are only a joke
now.

The president, President Obama, who I think very good things about,
but he went out and trashed the whole system and said, I`m not going to go
by the limits. I`m going to raise as much money as I can because I can.

ALLEN: And we`ve seen an affect by these super PACs that we didn`t
predict. You talked for a long time about the importance of them, but in
affect that we have just seen in the last couple of weeks, that nobody had
ever thought of, was that it is propping up candidates, keeping candidates
in the race that voters have rejected -- Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, are
only being listened to because of the super PAC, big super PAC money behind
Rick Santorum. It`s part of the reason he had a surge.

MATTHEWS: Colbert super PAC has released five ads now that rules
governing what can and can`t go into the ads are murky. Take a look at
this one from November with long-shot presidential candidate Buddy Roamer.
It`s not an endorsement that would violate the rules, of course, since he
appears in it. It`s just called an issue ad.

Now, here he is appearing in the ad, and it`s not called an ad for
him. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUDDY ROAMER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn`t pay for it.
Colbert super PAC did. And super PACs are not supposed to coordinate with
candidates like me.

But because this is an issue ad about super PACs not coordinating
with candidates, I can be in it as long as I don`t say (BLEEP) for me.

I say that argument is just a fig leaf so super PACs can justify
doing anything they want. They have a lot of money, folks. They built
this fake set with fake books, filled with real money. Hell, they even
bought Colbert a unicorn.

COLBERT: All perfectly legal, rainbow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, apart from the unicorn, it`s all true, isn`t it,
Mike? This is what goes on. He could appear in an ad that`s online at
least and it`s putting money behind it.

I did like the fact they pulled the bookshelves out -- the biggest
phoniest thing in politics. You know, there`s no books in those books.

ALLEN: And you can never listen to these candidates talk about not
coordinating with the straight face again after watching these clips. And
even in the debate, we have Mitt Romney saying the --

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you what`s important. Before these super PACs
started spending money in Iowa, Newt Gingrich, whatever you think of him,
was leading for president, not just in Iowa, but across the country. After
the super PAC rule, that money was dumped out on the TV, and I was out
there when you saw it all, amazing amount of TV, he was gone.

And Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses which led him to win the New
Hampshire, getting a daily double. In other words, this super PAC stuff is
running the campaign.

CORN: But we have to put a gloss on this. I mean, I salute Stephen
Colbert. I hope he`s not accused of vulture comedy when he runs in South
Carolina. But the thing is, laughing at this doesn`t change it. These
guys don`t care.

Rick Tyler doesn`t care that you give him hard questions, that Steve
Colbert jokes, because negative ads work. And it only takes one guy with a
couple of million dollars to go in there and use super PACs.

So, the Supreme Court has really put all of us in a bind on this.

MATTHEWS: I know. But you know what, snarling at it and growling at
it and harsh tune hasn`t worked either.

CORN: No, no, but people have to get up and actually do something.

MATTHEWS: People have to care when they get on the TV who is talking
to them, who is talking to me right now.

Anyway, thank you. Talking to me.

Anyway, thank you, David Corn, as always, my buddy.

Thank you, Mike. Great work and great coordination between you and
Colbert.

Anyway, up next, what about -- what is at the root of the class
division more and more people say they see in America? This is the most
profound thing we have done tonight. Wait until you see this.

Most Americans regardless of education or how many college years,
regardless of how much money they make, believe we are divided between rich
and poor right now. And it`s in unison they all believe that. It`s
amazing.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The Obama administration is now warning Iran that closing
the Strait of Hormuz would be a red line that would provoke an American
response. The administration used a secret shout-out communication to
issue the warning to Iran`s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says if
Iran closed the strait, the American military would take action to reopen
it. One fifth of the oil trade flows through that strait. This is serious
business.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

The phrase "E Pluribus Unum," out of many one. But as the various
occupy protests have as shown Americans increasingly see the country
divided between rich versus poor. A new Pew poll has found that 66 percent
of Americans, 2/3, now say they see a strong or very conflict between the
rich and the poor. And that`s a 19-point jump since 2009, just a couple of
years ago.

Joining me now to talk about this is assistant Democratic leader,
U.S. Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, and MSNBC political
analyst, Ezra Klein, who`s also a "Washington Post" columnist.

Congressman Clyburn, thanks so much for joining us.

This new Pew poll shows that people across demographic lines
increasingly see this class conflict if you will. The numbers are up for
whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

But look at the change among whites alone. The percentage of whites
who say there is a strong, or very strong class conflict between rich and
poor has jumped 22 points since 2009. What do you make of the cause of
that? What`s causing that?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think that the tax
policies that we have operated under over the past few years, ever since we
had the so-called Bush tax cuts, people began to see that there was
something untoward about the way those tax impacted certain groups in our
society.

We had a GAO study that I brought up and tried to discuss every
chance I got during the so-called super committee where it said that the
lower 20 percentile in our society over the last 28 years have seen an
increase of only 16 percent in their household incomes. When the upper 20
percent saw a 65 percent increase in their household income and that upper
1 percent, 275 percent increase in household income.

And people see that. They feel it. They know that it`s a tough time
for them now to try to educate their children. They understand when they
look at their budgets at the end of the month that something is untoward.

And so, this gap, this wealth gap is getting wider in our society.
People used to be called middle income. Now see they are now in the lower
income. And the people who are in the lower income are finding themselves
out of work, on food stamps, looking for other kinds of safety nets.

So it`s very clear what`s going on here. And you look at the budget
that the House passed, the so-called Ryan budget, a budget that got rid of
Medicare guarantee and increase of about $6,400 a year for people on
Medicare. That would only plunge them further into debt and deficits and
no income.

MATTHEWS: Well, more and more people are seeing this conflict you
are talking about, Mr. Clyburn, regardless of party. This is very
interesting. The poll found 55 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of
Democrats -- and 68 percent Democrats say there`s tension these days
between rich and poor.

But, you know, the increase has been just about the same. They`ve
all gone up in the past two years, which I found interesting, Ezra. The
jump is about the same between the two parties -- 17 percent and 18
percent, Republican and Democrats.

So the jump in this perception is across party lines, Ezra.

EZRA KLEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: You have to ask yourself what we`re
seeing in the poll, because there are two possibilities, right? One is
that people are hearing the question and they`re saying, I -- I feel like
there`s a bigger conflict between the rich and the poor than I did two
years ago.

The other answer is that they are listening to -- is that they are
saying they believe that America feels that way. And it`s a little unclear
which it is, right? If they believe America feels that way, they could be
listening to the two parties. They could be listening to Occupy Wall
Street. They could be listening to a lot of media coming at them that
suggests we`re having a fair amount more talk about class war, class
conflict, tax cuts for the rich than we were a couple of years ago.

If it`s "I," then you are probably seeing people who say that
business profits, corporate profits, financial profits --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KLEIN: -- have rebounded to incredible levels and median incomes
haven`t come back at all and they see the economy working very well for
people at the top and not for them, and they see tension there. They see
that there`s a causal relationship there.

But those two are very different. And it`s hard to say from the poll
which we`re looking at or maybe we`re seeing both.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Clyburn, we only have a few seconds left -- but it`s
part of this that people are reading about billionaires and there are so
many -- you are reading a lot about people with superior, unbelievable
incomes compared to when other people were scratching along day-to-day.

CLYBURN: Yes, I would agree with Ezra that some of that is the case.
Look, when you have a billionaire out of the first or second richest man in
this country saying to the public that I think it`s unfair that I, a
billionaire, am paying 14 percent, 15 percent, 16 percent on my income and
my secretary is paying 26 percent, 27 percent on her income.

MATTHEWS: That`s right.

CLYBURN: And I think that`s unfair.

That gets the attention of the American people, and I think the
people are now saying, look, even the ones who are benefiting -- look --

MATTHEWS: OK.

CLYBURN: -- we were doing the so-called super committee, I heard
from many millionaires who said it`s unfair.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Congressman. It`s great having you on,
sir. Jim Clyburn, big weekend -- Martin Luther King weekend. Thank you
for coming on.

Ezra Klein, sir, thank you for joining us.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with my 10-week tour of America I
just finished. What an education.

You`re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

I`ve just had a unique experience as an American. Ever since
November 1st, some 10 weeks now, I`ve been traveling the country, all
across the country -- from Rhode Island to San Francisco through heartland
cities like Minneapolis. Boy, was it cold out there -- meeting thousands
and thousands of people about an American hero, President John F. Kennedy.

And what I`ve discovered should be no surprise to those who love this
country. It`s the romance of that love, the combination of admiration,
affection and downright dream we have for our country and, yes, the best of
its leaders.

So many people are not down on this country right now or its leaders.
They carry in their hearts and show it in their eyes a deep abiding, loving
connection to this country`s best goals and those who believe -- they
believe aspire to them: the end of racial prejudice and the real
enlargement of opportunity, the desire for peace in the world, especially
the freedom from nuclear war, the belief in science and what it can
achieve. I`m proud to have written a book about a leader who espoused
those things. Civil rights, the avoidance of nuclear war, true respect
among nations and that wild journey to the moon, and the great advantages
that scientific pursuit can bring to us.

Kennedy is revered today because he personified all of that. And I
can`t think of many things in my professional life that have matched going
across the country and simply talking about him and what he did and what he
promised. There`s nothing like standing in a room before a big live crowd
talking about the America I love and a leader who meant so much to us.
I`ll continue to meet with people as long as there`s anybody out there who
wants to join me, by the way.

Well, we have a campaign to cover now and it`s an important one. It
could well be as close as that one back in 1960 between Kennedy and Nixon
that gave us John F. Kennedy, president. It could go to midnight on
election night or later. And the debates will be wild, exciting and
unpredictable this fall.

Obama is going to have to fight for his second term -- really have to
make a case for one. And the other guy, whoever it ends up being, will
have to be tough. Tough enough and convincing enough to take it away from
a very tough guy.

As always, it`s great to be back right here on HARDBALL full time.

And 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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