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updated 5/15/2012 12:38:24 PM ET 2012-05-15T16:38:24

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Mark Halperin, David Corn, Hampton Pearson, Harry Jackson, Steve Clemons, Gwen Moore, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Delman Coates

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Going on offense.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight:
You`re so Bain. The Obama campaign is going for the jugular. We start
tonight with a new two-minute ad airing in five swing states about Mitt
Romney`s years at Bain Capital. The ads portray Romney as a corporate
vampire, sucking the life out of a steel plant. Such ads worked against
Romney in South Carolina this year, and they worked back in 1994 in his
race against Ted Kennedy. This is the Obama campaign`s most important
effort to define Romney before he gets to do it himself.

Also on attack, Obama dares Republicans to vote against the Violence
Against Women Act this week. Also today, a taped appearance on "The View"
and a commencement address at a prestigious women`s college up in New York,
Barnard. Women are the key to a victory in November, and team Obama is
going to keep pushing this Republican war on women.

Plus, President Obama`s declaration on gay marriage thrilled most
Democrats, but African-Americans remain deeply divided. We`re going to
talk to two black ministers, one pro, one con, on how this issue could
affect that most loyal group of Democratic voters come November. They`re
going to be right here.

Also, here`s a scary thought. Does Mitt Romney even have a foreign
policy? Here`s a scarier one altogether. What if he becomes the latest
tool of the neocons, like Dan Quayle and George W. Bush were? How`d that
work for you?

And look who made his return to "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Well, mission accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s that supposed to mean?

FERRELL: It`s just something I can say when a problem isn`t solved
but I don`t want to talk about it anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s the great Will Ferrell giving consolation to Vice
President Biden on "Saturday Night Live."

We begin, however, tonight with the serious stuff, the president going
on offense against that bane of Romney`s existence, Bain Capital.

Mark Halperin writes for "Time" magazine and David Corn writes for
"Mother Jones." Both gentlemen are MSNBC analysts.

Here`s a portion, by the way -- let`s watch this first -- of that two-
minute ad the Obama campaign is running or will run soon in Iowa, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia, all battleground states. It focuses
on a steel company bought by Bain Capital. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a steel worker for 30 years. We had a
reputation for quality products. It was something that was American-made.
And we weren`t rich, but I was able to put my daughter through college.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having a good-paying job that you can support and
raise a family on is hugely important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That stopped with the sale of the plant to Bain
Capital.

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know how
business works! I know why jobs come and why they go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bain Capital was the majority owner. They were
responsible. Mitt Romney was deeply involved in the influence that he
exercised over these companies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made as much money off it as they could, and
they closed it down. They filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the
families or the communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a vampire. It came in and sucked the
life out of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Mark Halperin, this reminds me -- I hate to quote
the devil here, but it reminds me of Karl Rove with -- you take the
opponent`s strongest suit -- in the case of John Kerry, it was his war
service in Vietnam -- and you blast away at that strong suit.

Is that what the Obama campaign is doing early here in May, well --
six months before the election, blasting away at what Romney will claim to
be his strength with his (ph) job creator?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they`re
doing more than that, Chris. They are doing that. They`re going after not
just Romney`s strength the only way they think he can win. Their research
suggests that Mitt Romney has a path to beating Barack Obama. It`s his
credentials as a businessman, as a job creator. So they`re going after
that.

Let`s be clear, though, Chris. This ad is really a video press
release. As best I can tell from talking to Republicans and Democrats,
including those (ph) associated with the Obama campaign, it`s running once
in some of these states, not as part of their big buy, their $25 million
buy. They know the press has an enormous appetite for this story. There
are legitimate issues here. They`ve chosen a great example with a lot of
compelling figures to make the case against Romney.

But they are going after defining Romney in his area of strength as
early as they can with some money, but again, with an unlimited appetite on
the part of the press to try to remove his business credential and make him
unelectable.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to that point here. It seems to me we`re
also looking for a story at this point because there`s no more primaries or
caucuses. We`re in regular season now. We got the playoffs to look ahead,
the debates and all that coming down the road.

But right now, all it was, was us sitting there, watching the economic
news every day. How`s the market doing? How`s the unemployment doing?
How`s the growth rate doing? That`s Romney`s strength.

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: Here`s a way for the president`s party to focus on Romney.

CORN: And to take up some time. The people in the Obama campaign and
the White House are concerned that with the end of the Republican primary,
with nothing else really happening of substance in Washington, D.C., at
this moment, that Romney had a window of opportunity to start reshaping his
own -- his own, you know, definition of himself for the voters.

And so what they want to do is they just want to...

MATTHEWS: Etch-A-Sketch.

CORN: Yes, Etch-a-Sketch again. They want to get out there and they
want to make some -- they want to make conflict because conflict gets
covered. But also, they want to get in there before Romney starts talking
about Mr. Fix-it, Mr. Business, Staples and everything else. So they put
up this ad.

And just because they`re doing one showing of this commercial doesn`t
mean they won`t come back to it a week, two weeks, three weeks from now. I
think this will be a narrative, a subplot or if not the plot, that they`ll
come back to again and again and again in the next six months.

MATTHEWS: Well, a multi -- a million-dollar buy of negative ads like
this one targeting Bain Capital, funded by the pro-Gingrich super-PAC,
actually took Romney down in South Carolina, or helped to do that. Let`s
watch an ad campaign that really did get paid for, was backed up and
worked. 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. 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 the man that destroyed us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what Newt said about Mitt in his ads. Here`s
the attack campaigns from the past, questioning Romney`s job-creating
record. They are not new. He faced ads like this back in 1994, when he
ran against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate and lost, largely because of
this kind of ad. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney said about -- he thought layoffs were good
and that this wasn`t a fantasy (INAUDIBLE). It was the real world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had to ask the foreman to use the restroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They cut the wages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We no longer had insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had no rights anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Took all of our security away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taking away their dignity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically cut our throats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d like for him to show me where these 10,000
jobs that he`s created are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I`m thinking about where this campaign is going
be (INAUDIBLE) And I understand on the issue of marriage equality, that may
hurt him on older people. I`m thinking about working class white people,
if you will, people that didn`t go to college and rely on these kind of
industrial jobs. We used to call them "accordion industries," since they
go in and out depending on the business cycle, Mark.

Very vulnerable people. They would get a job at Boeing. If it was a
good season, if they were hiring. If they weren`t, they weren`t, or a Bud
plant. I grew up with that stuff. And you could tell when the time was
good and when it was bad.

Now, this stuff -- this vulnerable working class guy, is he going to
be taken by this and say, You know what? I`m not going to vote for this
rich guy. He`s the kind of guy that screwed me out of a job.

HALPERIN: Well, David Axelrod thinks so. The president thinks so.
And again, this is only half of the argument. There`s the argument of,
This is what Romney did in the past. They`re also going to do, This is
what Romney would do in the future, linking him to the House Paul Ryan
budget and to try to make him make tough trade-offs and spending and taxes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: Romney is not well defined. The reason they`re going
aggressively -- again, they`re doing it on the cheap. They`re not spending
a lot on this particular two-minute ad. It`s crazy to think they would
waste all that money putting a two-minute spot on when they...

MATTHEWS: Why don`t they just run...

HALPERIN: ... can get all this free coverage...

MATTHEWS: ... the old Kennedy ad and the old Newt Gingrich ad? The
Newt Gingrich ad was the nastiest of all three.

CORN: I think the interesting...

MATTHEWS: David?

CORN: Yes, I think the interesting thing about the Newt Gingrich
attack was it gave Axelrod and Messina and everybody else a chance to look
at what might or might not work. I`d be willing to bet that they did focus
groups and surveys in South Carolina just to see what degree...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... to which that had an impact. It was a good test run for
them. And they`re going to come back again and again because I think on a
lot of these issues, you`re going to see Romney go heavier. You talk about
Staples? Staples, he says, created thousands of jobs. Staples also cost
jobs. It put stationeries...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... out of business! This is a really volatile...

MATTHEWS: OK...

CORN: ... debate for both sides to have.

MATTHEWS: It seems like they could stick him for the fact that wasn`t
Massachusetts, like, 47th in job creation under Governor Romney, if he goes
back to his public career, Mark.

HALPERIN: Yes, and they`re going to talk about that, as well. The
Romney campaign`s going to try to keep the focus on the president`s
record...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HALPERIN: ... to go back to those white working class votes. You
know, Rob Portman, who`s one of the people I think being -- would be
strongly considered to be the running mate, was at a Bloomberg View ed
board here in New York today. And I asked him about this ad and about this
line of attack against Romney, and his answer was, You know, that`s
capitalism. That`s the way markets work.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but it`s not a good answer for a national election.

HALPERIN: I don`t think -- I think if Romney gave that answer, it`d
be disastrous. Rob Portman is not at the same level, at least not yet.

But I do think the big story of the day is not that they`ve done this
because, as David said, this was inevitable and (INAUDIBLE) sustained.
It`s the Romney campaign hasn`t really responded. How many jobs is Romney
going to say he created? What is Romney`s view of these few cases that
were tough? He`s addressed them along the way, but not for a general
election audience. And I think he`s going to have to address that in a
more broad way and a compelling way to try to win that argument about his
overall record.

MATTHEWS: These guys...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me just -- let me personalize it. These guys that come
in -- they`re usually sharp people, Harvard Business School guys. They run
these companies, equity companies. They go in. They make money. But they
basically do it by cost-cutting, which means firing people.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: They clean a place out of its middle management, then they
sell it. That company may make it afterwards, but they`re not really
concerned about that. They made a profit when they flipped it.

CORN: I think...

MATTHEWS: Right?

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They`re not the kind of people that middle-aged people like
the looks of.

CORN: This is very risky territory for Romney for those reasons
alone...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... because he didn`t go in to create jobs, he went in to make
a profit...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... sometimes it led to jobs, sometimes it led to job loss.
And what he`s counting on is amnesia, that people will look at what`s
happened to the economy now and not associate it with Wall Street wheelers
and dealers, which actually caused the subprime crisis...

MATTHEWS: Isn`t this...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... direct transfer of money from the working people and
the entrepreneur...

CORN: Well, look, in this case...

MATTHEWS: ... to the equity guys?

CORN: In this case, they took out $135 million in bonds on this steel
company, and Bain got a $35 million payoff from it!

MATTHEWS: My one concern about this, Mark -- and you cover this every
day -- I wonder if the president can handle this debate if he gets into a
debate for an hour-and-a-half this fall with Romney, who knows all the
thickets and jungle (ph) work. He was in there. He knows where he was.
He knows every dollar he lost and every deal he made.

How does Obama get in there and debate him on his own turf? How can
he possibly know as much as Romney does about how he made or didn`t make
money?

HALPERIN: I don`t think he needs to. I think he can -- in a debate,
I think he can bumper sticker it and make it clear. And again, the press -
- this is one of these instances where the press is very sympathetic to the
Obama narrative on Bain and not all that sympathetic to Governor Romney.

Governor Romney needs to make an argument so compelling that it finds
an audience in the press, if he can do it, and an audience with the public.
I think in the debate, again, we know what the president`s will say, and I
think he`ll be pretty effective. What will Governor Romney say in the
debates, in the fall campaign and high-profile moments? He had kind of a
test run in the nomination fight, but he`s going to have to address it...

MATTHEWS: Do you think...

HALPERIN: ... on all -- on a range of things.

MATTHEWS: ... the reason the press is on Obama`s side against Romney,
besides sometimes partisanship, obviously, is the fact that equity people
make 20 or 30 times a year what newspaper people make?

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: But not necessarily what TV people make, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true. (INAUDIBLE) Mark, you`re too tough on
me. Thank you, Mark Halperin, and thank you, David Corn.

Coming up: The Obama camp stays on offense. The goal, make sure that
gender gap stays as large as the Grand Canyon.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Great new polling numbers from a couple of states. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard" tonight.

In Michigan, a new poll of likely voters by a Republican pollster
shows President Obama with only a slim lead over Mitt Romney, 45-40.
Romney actually grew up in Michigan and is hoping to pick up some of the --
pick that up, the blue states. Anyway, Critical Insights poll in Maine
gives the president an 8-point lead among registered voters. That`s a very
independent state up there. Both states last went Republican in 1988.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Indeed, we know we are
better off when women are treated fairly and equally in every aspect of
American life, whether it`s the salary you earn or the health decisions you
make.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: There he is in New York today. Back to HARDBALL. Today
President Obama made a full-court press for the women`s vote, giving the
commencement address at the all-female Barnard College up in New York City,
then taping an interview with the ladies of "The View."

In his speech, the president acknowledged women`s growing power in the
workforce, in higher education and implicitly in the voting booth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I believe the women of this generation, that all of you will
help lead the way.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Now, I recognize that`s a cheap applause line when you`re
giving a commencement at Barnard.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA; That`s the easy thing to say. But it`s true. Today women are
not just half this country, you`re half its workforce.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: More and more women are out-earning their husbands. You`re
more than half of our college graduates and master`s graduates and Ph.D.`s.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: So you`ve got us outnumbered!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this week in Congress, women`s issues take center
stage again with a vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act --
there`s an interesting title -- which some people say has been turned into
a political football.

Democratic congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin is actually sponsor
of the House version of the Violence Against Women Act -- she joins us
right now -- which is similar to the bill passed on a bipartisan vote by
the Senate. And Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state
is a co-sponsor of the Republican version of the bill, which will be voted
on, on Wednesday.

So let me start with Congresswoman Moore. It seems to me impossible
for a woman member of Congress or any member of Congress to go back to
their district and tell the women voters, I voted against the Violence
Against Women Act. I don`t even know how you get past the title of the act
and try to explain that.

REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN: Well, just let me say, Chris, that
not only was the Violence Against Women Act -- not only was it not just a
women`s issue, but it was a bipartisan issue. And both genders voted for
it.

I think the extent to which it`s been politicized is because the
Republicans really don`t want to follow the recommendations of the
Department of Justice, the FBI, advocates who have learned from best
practices that in order to be more inclusive, you`ve got to expand the bill
to protect native Americans, to protect women in lesbian relationships, and
certainly to protect immigrant women who cooperate with law enforcement
officials.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask on the other side of this issue, Cathy
Rodgers, Congresswoman, why -- what`s wrong with taking care of people who
are involved in these same-sex or whatever kinds of relationships? As long
as somebody`s being beat up by somebody, don`t you want to protect them?

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Absolutely. And what
the Republicans have introduced is the reauthorization of the Violence
Against Women Act. We actually took some of the recommendations from the
Congressional Budget Office in our reauthorization. We are committed to
this program that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but why not these other -- why don`t you cover people
who are not in a traditional marriage? Why would you limit it to just
traditional marriage folk?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, what I -- those are -- those are side issues
that have been attached to this bill, and I think it`s very important...

MATTHEWS: Well, they`re not side issues if you`re getting beat up by
your partner. That`s not a side issue, it`s your life.


MCMORRIS RODGERS: That is an issue -- there is no -- there is nothing
under federal law that currently recognizes same-sex couples.

And so if we`re going to have that debate in Congress, it should be a
separate debate from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But you`re a congresswoman. You write the law. You said
there is nothing in the law. You write the law. You could write it any
way you want. Why not write it to include people in these different kinds
of relationships that could involve physical violence?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, that`s a separate issue from the
reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

MATTHEWS: Why?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: We`re committed to getting it -- it should be
debated separately...

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: ... if we`re going to change our federal law
related to same-sex couples.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, I can imagine.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congresswoman Moore.

I can`t imagine going back to a district, rural, urban, or suburban,
and saying to people, I can`t protect against wives against their husbands
because I don`t want to do anything that suggests equality in gay
relationships. And,by the way, I can`t even protect a gay person from
being beat up by a gay person because I can`t even touch that issue.

It seems like the Republicans are so afraid to touch the issue, they
don`t want to protect people. Your thoughts, Congresswoman Moore?

MOORE: You know, Chris, it goes even further than that.

You take the plight of Native American women. You know, two-thirds of
Native American women who are assaulted on tribal lands find that these
crimes are not prosecuted because non-native white men who live on native
properties can`t be prosecuted because the tribal authorities don`t have
any authority to prosecute them.

That was part of the expansion that by no means 99 percenters or wild
left-wing folk, but FBI agents, DAs, police, the Department of Justice
recommended, so it wasn`t just gay or lesbian people that they thought
needed to be protected, but even beyond that, immigrants, only those who
would cooperate with law enforcement who were being beaten by violent
people who threatened and held over their heads that they were non-
documented and native women as well.

So I think that the Republican Party is really -- they`re really
ignoring the recommendations of a broad swathe of law enforcement...

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

MOORE: ... who say that the bill is not worthy of being called the
Violence Against Women Act if you don`t protect all women.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well, the liberal organization MoveOn.org is out
with a new TV ad hammering Mitt Romney for his positions, his positions on
women`s issues he took during the primaries.

Let`s listen to that add.

You can respond, Congresswoman Rodgers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOVEON.ORG AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Mitt Romney. You`re the
presumed GOP nominee, and all you had to do was:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Threaten to let our employers take away our
contraception coverage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Threaten to let our insurance companies charge
us more just because we`re women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And threaten to get rid of with Planned
Parenthood, a lifesaving source of health care for millions of women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, this November, we`re going to remember...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... how you threw women under the bus just to
get the nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What did you make of Mitt Romney`s performance,
Congresswoman Rodgers, when he had to go get up against people of the
further right like Santorum? Do you think he fought them or he joined
them?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, boy, the Democrats are creating a controversy
here that doesn`t exist.

There is -- it is a myth to say the we`re waging this war on women.
The Violence Against Women Act, I`m confident it will be reauthorized.
There are women like me, Republican women, that are committed to it. It`s
a very important program, and I believe that we can work out a lot of these
issues that Gwen has mentioned on -- we support equal pay for equal work.

It`s been longstanding in this country and we will continue to stand
up for that. It was the president who made the change through Health and
Human Services on contraceptions. It wasn`t the Republicans. It was the
president.

They`re creating distractions. They`re trying to divide America and
really trying to distract women from the real issues that face this country
right now. Women are concerned about the economy. They`re concerned about
the debt.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s wrong with women, as part of their insurance, having
the coverage for contraception? What`s wrong with that?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: What -- it was the president -- what I`m pointing
out is it was the president that changed the policy.

MATTHEWS: He`s insisted that that coverage be there. What`s wrong
with that?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: It was -- and he initiated the change. It wasn`t
the Republicans that initiated the change.

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s wrong with the change?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: And it was...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You guys opposed it, though. What`s wrong with the change?

MCMORRIS RODGERS: The way he proposed it, it actually was infringing
upon our religious freedom and it took on the faith of the Catholic Church
and their beliefs that they should not be covering contraception in their
health insurance plans.

But it`s more important to remember that it was the president who
initiated this change.

MATTHEWS: Well...

MCMORRIS RODGERS: It wasn`t the Republicans that came along. No
Republican is talking about taking away contraception from women. It is
again the Democrats trying to distract and divide Americans and not talk
about the economic issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I can`t argue the obvious, except that`s what you did so.

That`s so on the record, it`s unbelievable. The Republicans had a
problem with the president because he said health care coverage for women
should include contraception, and you guys opposed it.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Well, but it wasn`t the Republicans who initiated
any kind of a change. It was the president who...

MATTHEWS: Well, they never are.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: ... through rules, through new rules, through new
rule-making...

MATTHEWS: I know.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: ... said the Catholic Church would have to cover
contraceptions.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: And then if the president can take on an entire
faith, an entire religion in this country, think what he can do for us
individually. It`s scary.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Well, let me just tell you, I`m going to close this with the fact I
believe women voters are rational. I look at the voting patterns of women
over the years.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: They are.

MATTHEWS: They`re concerned not just for choice, but health care and
education, child development...

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... their parents.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: All those reasons lead to a gigantic gender gap. Women
vote Democrat for a reason.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: And they`re concerned about jobs and their future
for their children that can`t find jobs.

MATTHEWS: Who isn`t?

MOORE: That`s true, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK.

That`s right. We are concerned about jobs.

Hey, thank you. Please come back. I think on the issues of violence
against women, I wouldn`t want to have to come back to my congressional
district and say I voted nay.

Anyway, thank you, Representative Gwen Moore.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: And we won`t.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of
Spokane, Washington.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next, Will Ferrell -- Will Ferrell makes his return to
"SNL" as W. You don`t want to -- he is good. He plays W. really well.
And this is funny.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. And now for the "Sideshow."

First off, the return of W. That`s right. Will Ferrell was in the
house on "SNL" this weekend and his send-up of the former president who
comes back to buck up a down-in-the-dumps Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Now, what`s wrong, compadre? You seem down.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, everybody says I have, like, a big mouth.

FERRELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, it is my big mouth that got things done
this time, OK, not his careful weighing of options.

FERRELL: Heck, those smarty pants types are never going to understand
speak-first guys like us.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. I`m just so sick of the way presidents are
always riding me. I`m an adult.

FERRELL: Hey, I have been there. I have been there. I used to catch
grief all the time from President Cheney.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Mm-hmm.

FERRELL: I would be in the Oval Office hooking up the Slurpee
machine, settling into a "Charles in Charge" marathon.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes.

FERRELL: And then that penguin would come waddling in and yell, get
your damn pants on. We`re about to bomb blah, blah, blah, blah.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That is so great. This stuff was made for "Saturday Night
Live."

Anyway, finally, here`s a one-liner from one of Romney`s potential
running mates. See if you can figure out who is behind the quote: "I don`t
think you ever rule out opportunities or options when you`re involved in
public life and you say you want to make a difference and you`re serious
about that. Obviously, then you don`t foreclose options."

Well, now for the clues. He endorsed Romney back in November, only
the second U.S. senator to do so, and there was a time when people actually
thought this person might enter the race for president, prompting Mitt
Romney himself to say -- quote -- "I`m so lucky he didn`t run."

Well, it`s South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune, who happened to
have been my earliest pick and continues to be my pick for Romney`s V.P.

Up next: why President Obama may still have some work to do with the
most loyal Democrats of all, African-Americans.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

A triple-digit sell-off leaves the Dow down 125 points, the S&P 500
off 15. The Nasdaq falls by 31. World markets dropped as uncertainty over
Greece`s financial future stretched into a second week. J.P. Morgan slid
another 3 percent today. And CIO Ina Drew is retiring from her post
following last week`s disclosure of a $2 billion trading loss. Meanwhile,
Groupon shares are rallying following a better-than-expected earnings
report.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

When President Obama stood in favor of gay marriage in an interview
last week, he received enthusiastic support from much of the Democratic
base. But one group has serious reservations and it`s the most loyal
Democratic group of all, African-American voters.

Well, the president convened a conference call with eight or so
African-American ministers just hours after he made that announcement to
explain his position and he wanted to gauge their reaction.

Well, Reverend Delman Coates was one of those on the call. He
supports the president`s stance on gay marriage. Bishop Harry Jackson
opposes the president`s position.

So I want to start with you, Reverend, and your thoughts about it,
what your thoughts were before, during and after the president took this
position.

REV. DELMAN COATES, MOUNT ENNON BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, I have always
been a supporter of the president`s position. And I think it`s important
for people...

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. He didn`t have the position until last
week.

COATES: Right. Well, I have had my personal position.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you were for it before he was for it.

COATES: Right. I came out in support of civil marriage protection in
the state of Maryland.

And I think it`s important for people to understand that civil
marriage protection for gay and lesbian couples is decidedly different from
religious marriage. I think it`s important for people to understand that
in this country, and as a matter of public policy, we have to maintain the
separation between church and state and that we have to understand that we
cannot base issues of public policy upon one`s personal and private
theology.

And so it`s critically important that we protect the rights of all
citizens of this country. And President Obama was elected president of the
United States and not pastor of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Well, as a pastor, would you preside over a gay marriage?

COATES: Well, this precise...

MATTHEWS: No, would you?

COATES: Would I preside -- well, our local...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, you said your private as well as -- as opposed to your
public view, what the law should be and what you would do as a minister --
do you support as a religious leader gay marriage?

COATES: Well, absolutely. I believe...

MATTHEWS: Oh, you do, both? You`re for both.

(CROSSTALK)

COATES: I believe, as a religious leader, I believe that gays and
lesbians deserve equal protection under the law.

MATTHEWS: And under your religion?

COATES: Well, what I`m saying is that the personal theological issue
is really immaterial.

MATTHEWS: But where are you on the personal and theological issue? I
want to know that, too.

COATES: As a part of my personal theology, I believe that all
citizens...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. So you don`t have a distinction. OK.

Let me go to you, Bishop, and your views, personally, first of all.
First of all, are you a Republican or a Democrat?

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: I`m a Democrat.

MATTHEWS: OK. You have supported the president before? You voted
for him?

JACKSON: I did not vote for the president.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

JACKSON: I was concerned about these very issues.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, what issue made you concerned in the year 2008?

JACKSON: The biggest thing was life, the abortion issue.

I read his book that came out beforehand. It seemed to me from way
back when that he was leaning in this direction than others. Jeremiah
Wright is known to have performed commitment ceremonies for gays and
lesbians a while back.

MATTHEWS: Right.

JACKSON: So I have got some serious concerns that are biblically
based as far as I`m concerned.

MATTHEWS: Do you think that people should have voted against the
president on the basis of his pro-choice decision?

JACKSON: I think -- I think at this point, with these choices, yes.

In another time, I think McCain, for example, ran one of the worst
races in recorded history, and he was ambivalent on how he stood.

MATTHEWS: Who did you vote for last time?

JACKSON: Well, I did -- well, I voted for McCain. I wound up voting
for him.

My father was threatened at gunpoint when I was 1-year-old down in
Florida by voter registration issues.

MATTHEWS: Did you vote for George W. as well?

JACKSON: I voted for George W. the second time, not the first time.

MATTHEWS: OK.

JACKSON: Ironically, in 2004, when marriage became an issue, I came
out as a Democrat and joined arms with guys like Tony Perkins and other
folks because I felt that marriage is foundational to the culture.

And here we are now, eight years later, and we have got the same kind
of demographic going on. And I`m concerned. A lot of people are saying
they`re not going to vote at all who are African-Americans because they
say, I don`t feel like I can vote against the first black president.

MATTHEWS: Right.

JACKSON: I don`t like what he stands for, and I don`t know that I
understand where Romney is, as a Mormon and other things.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you mentioned the Mormon part. What do you think
about that?

JACKSON: Well, they have worked with me on marriage issue, both in
D.C. and Maryland. They seem to be fine, upright people.

I`m on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, and we
had a meeting out in Utah last year which was very...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m concerned.

It seems to me there are a lot of issues that religion touches on in
public life, whether it`s capital punishment, war and peace, so many
issues.

JACKSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It seems to me, though, that people on the right always
pick out a couple issues that they focus on.

COATES: Right.

MATTHEWS: They don`t focus on whether their kids starve or have good
nutrition or have a good education.

BISHIOP HARRY JACKSON, HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: I`m against (ph) to
that, too.

MATTHEWS: But they tend to focus on these right-to-life questions
and marriage issues.

COATES: And that`s critically important. The reality is that more
is said in the Bible about poverty and caring for the poor and systemic
equality than issues of private morality.

MATTHEWS: Right.

COATES: So, I believe what we`re going to find in this election
season is that people understand is that there is more that unites us than
what divides us.

MATTHEWS: I remember that Jesus always stood against the people
being stoned.

COATES: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: He was the one that said don`t condemn people. His friend
was Mary Magdalene, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He wasn`t out here saying obey the law strictly like the
Pharisees were. He was the one saying, be Christians in the senses of
looking for mercy, for people who are in trouble.

JACKSON: Let me give you a little bit I think were helpful --

MATTHEWS: Do you think he would have been chasing after the kid with
long hair and cutting his hair, or he would have been the ones protecting
the kid with long hair?

JACKSON: He would have been protecting the kid with long hair.

MATTHEWS: Right, I thought. So, you`re with the guy who was going
after the kid.

JACKSON: No, no, no, I`m not necessarily with him right now.

MATTHEWS: You`re not with Romney?

JACKSON: I`m not with Romney at this point.

MATTHEWS: OK.

JACKSON: Here`s what I wanted to say to you about righteous justice.
The Bible very clearly about righteousness which is like personal morality,
holiness. It also talks about justice. What`s broken in American politics
is the Democrats think they own social justice, the Republicans think they
own righteousness, but the Bible doesn`t take righteousness or justice, it
takes righteousness and justice.

MATTHEWS: I understand.

JACKSON: Therefore like him --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Don`t you think that our president, you can start, our
president is a model of a father, of a husband?

COATES: Sure.

MATTHEWS: In every way he`s been devoted to his wife, to his kids.
I think he puts off a lot of politics, and I would disagree with him on
this, he doesn`t spend a lot of evenings hanging out with senators and
Congress people, because he`d rather be with his family and be a good
husband. I think that`s hurting him politically.

But I think he`s been a model family man. That`s why I find it hard
to believe how tough you are on him because you disagree on a question of
civil marriage.

JACKSON: Well --

MATTHEWS: What are gay people supposed to do, hang out with each
other but never formalize their relationships? What are they supposed to
do? What`s a gay person supposed to do, Bishop?

JACKSON: I think they can follow their hearts and their
relationships, politicians have let us down. To redefine marriage, you
redefine the family, you redefine education.

MATTHEWS: But what are gay people supposed to do when they have
close personal relations for life? What should they call that?

JACKSON: I think they should call that civil unions. That`s what I
think.

MATTHEWS: They shouldn`t call it marriage.

JACKSON: They shouldn`t call it marriage.

MATTHEWS: Why?

JACKSON: I think there`s too much confusion around marriage, the
individual roles, marriages on life support right now. If I talk to your
average African-American kid, he`s from a broken home, he`s got --

MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. How does denying gay people the
right to marry encourage young women and men who are in heterosexual
relationships who have children together for example, Chris, and not get
married? Isn`t that a separate problem? How does gay marriage discourage
young couples from actually formalizing their love relationships in
heterosexual world?

JACKSON: See, it`s a pincer movement. I want to block the extension
of marriage but I want to strengthen marriage itself.

MATTHEWS: I thought that`s where you`re headed and I think you`re
wrong. I don`t think denying gay people the right to marry is going to
encourage young heterosexual couples to formalize.

COATES: I don`t think this is a redefinition of marriage. This is
an extension of civil marriage protection to all citizens.

JACKSON: Why not let the Muslims have polygamy then?

MATTHEWS: Bishop, I hope you evolve. Thank you very much. I was
just teasing.

JACKSON: That`s all right. Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS: This is going to go on this summer.

Anyway, Reverend Delman Coates, thank you, sir. And thank you,
Bishop Harry Jackson. Large, large congregation you have, sir.

Up next, Mitt Romney has captured the Republican nomination.
Question, has the neo-cons captured him the way they got to George W.?
They certainly did in that case.

This is HARDBALL -- a place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, this week`s cover of "Newsweek" is certainly getting
a lot of buzz with its depiction of President Obama as the country`s for
gay president -- look at that halo up there, and for his public support for
gay marriage.

Still, "The Atlantic" magazine posted a story pointing out that
"Newsweek" is hardly the first to play this game, if you will.

In 2009, the "Associated Press" wrote a story asking whether Mr.
Obama was the first Asian-American president.

Geraldo Rivera hoped that Mr. Obama would be the country`s fist
Hispanic president.

Columnist Kathleen Parker suggested we had elected our first female
president -- I don`t know where that one came from.

And last year, "New York" magazine cover story made Obama the
nation`s first Jewish president.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Does Mitt Romney have a foreign policy of his own, any kind of Mitt
Romney doctrine, even? Apparently, even his own foreign policy advisers
scratch their head to answer that question from time to time as "The New
York Times" reported this weekend.

Well, one adviser told "The Times," quote, "As in any campaign, there
are outer circles, inner circles and inner-inner circles, and I`m not sure
that anyone knows that the candidate has a strong view of his own on this."
That`s foreign policy.

The second adviser said, quote, "Romney doesn`t want to really engage
these issues until he is in office."

And yet, if you look at the statements of the candidate, the
candidate himself has made what emerges as a very hawkish line. He says we
should not even negotiate with the Taliban, he says we should kill them
all. He says if Obama is reelected, they will get a nuclear weapon, but if
Romney is elected -- and he stops just like that. He says it`s like that.

He calls Russia our number geopolitical foe, as if we were in the
1950s again. And if elected on day one, he will have designate China a
currency manipulator. That will make friends over there.

So, why is Romney talking tough on foreign policy?

Eugene Robinson is the columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC
political analyst, and Steve Clemons is Washington editor-at-large for "The
Atlantic."

Gentlemen, here`s the guy whose only foreign policy was working as a
missionary over in Paris and France. He has never been in the military.
No one in his family has never been in the military.

Fine. It doesn`t say that`s wrong. It just says where does all of
this militarism come from, Gene? Where does all of General Patton come
from?

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: It comes from a desire to sound
tougher than Barack Obama.

MATTHEWS: So, it`s a metaphor.

ROBINSON: Steve is a foreign policy expert, I used to be foreign
editor of "The Post" -- not that those are huge things -- you have to study
this stuff. You have to be curious, and think about it, and read books,
and there`s no evidence that he really has.

MATTHEWS: But the one that really grabbed me was the Taliban -- we
don`t like them because they basically supported al Qaeda and the attack on
the United States. That`s the thing they did wrong, but they exist in that
country. They are people in Afghanistan with the right to be there with a
totally radical view, but they`re people.

He says kill them all. Just go into the country and kill all --

(CROSSTALK)

STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: I feel like Mitt Romney is playing a
game of scissors-paper-rock and he is coming out and he`s saying Cheney,
Cheney. Playing the Cheney card he can show the greatest contrast he
thinks with the sort of real deal making that any U.S. president would have
to do, because he doesn`t have to be accountable or responsible for these
things.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CLEMONS: He doesn`t have to sequence priorities. He doesn`t have to
tradeoff. How do you channel Iran`s direction without doing deals with
Russia and China?

So, he`s not doing that. He`s basically waving a wand and say, I
will create umpteen other wars.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me try something that scares me, because he`s
about my age, about our age.

And here`s a guy who says Russia is our biggest enemy, no, it`s not.
Not Russia. I don`t know. But individually I think Russian`s like us,
they have been trying to get over the Cold War like we`ve been trying to
get over it.

Why would you do that just to -- apparently that really antagonizes
those people, they hate it when we say they`re our enemy. Why wouldn`t
they?

ROBINSON: Again, just from this desire to sound like a big tough
guy. There can`t be any thought put into that. Vladimir Putin is a
problematic guy, right?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: But you got to deal with Russia. If you want to deal
Iran, if you want to deal with --

MATTHEWS: We know we have to deal with them, but we`re not the boss
of the world. We got to deal with other countries.

CLEMONS: Right.

MATTHEWS: But here`s my question -- why is he doing this? Why is he
saying on every issue I`m the hawk.

CLEMONS: I think he wants to sound tough. He has no foreign policy
experience. He has no -- nothing to compare himself. So, he`s trying --
he`s from Massachusetts, people think -- his father essentially a
Rockefeller Republican. And so, he thinks by taking on a Goldwater foreign
policy, he will sound much more compelling.

MATTHEWS: Here`s what I hear -- the insiders don`t think he is an
ideologue. They don`t think he`s a fellow a neo-con, he doesn`t believe in
this big world freedom agenda with Bush, he`s not messianic or going off to
fight a bunch of wars, he is a completely empirical inductive thinker like
Jimmy Carter was, I will look at each issue, I will examine it, I will
data, I will mine the information in front of me, when that time comes as
president, and I will make decisions, like a business guy.

ROBINSON: That sounds reasonable. Look, he`s not an idiot, right?
I mean, he`s a smart guy, made a lot of money, make some good --

MATTHEWS: If that`s how his mind works, why is he claiming to be a
right winger?

ROBINSON: But I think he just wants to check that box. He just
wants to deal with that foreign policy -- I told you I`m tough. I`m
tougher than Obama. I`m going to make things better than Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: My favorite question, Steve, so what? I`m afraid that he
will make commitments that will lock him into a very hawkish stance on day
one.

CLEMONS: I think that`s right. I mean, look, we have a lesson in
this as well from a Democrat. Hillary Clinton made the same kind of claims
when she was running against Barack Obama, trying not to get George Bush to
go to the opening game to the Olympic ceremonies in Beijing and I wrote a
piece at the time saying, how unpresidential. That raises the cost of
China`s cooperation on the economy, on North Korea, on Iran, on climate
change. And you achieve nothing.

And so, the issue is often times, people who are running president
act and say things unpresidential. And that`s what we see here.

So, the reason it does matter, is it locks him into something, raises
suspicions for how he`s going to deal with other great stake holders in the
world.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`s a man that can be manipulated the way I
think Bush W. was -- he wasn`t that deep a guy, pushed around by Cheney and
the rest of them?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think Romney can be pushed around?

ROBINSON: If he decided to go with the sort of Bolton faction of his
advisors.

MATTHEWS: Is he an empty suit?

CLEMONS: I think on foreign policy, he`s an empty suit.

MATTHEWS: That`s scary, because I see Quayle was pushed around,
pretty much of a highlight, W. kind of empty-headed on some foreign policy.
He was used by a lot of ideologues.

Anyway, thank you. A very nice way to end the show, hell breaking
loose.

Anyway, Eugene Robinson and Steve Clemons, thank you.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with why you should never let anyone
tell you no. Anyone, that`s a speech I gave at Howard University this
weekend.

You`re watching HARDBALL. I was going to say Howard ball. Anyway,
the place for politics. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this.

Over the weekend, I received an honorary degree from Howard
University. It was extraordinary to be given this honor before thousands
of students, parents, faculty and friends at this historic American
institution. And as I said on Saturday from up there on that grand stage,
there is a glow in every graduate of this graduate university, this great
university -- a glow of pride on having attended an icon of African-
American history, of American history.

Let me share what I said to the graduates because I gave a
considerable thought. I said that the words we speak can be forgotten on
these occasions, people forget these speeches. But I wanted these students
going out in the world to form their careers to think of just one picture.
It`s of this young man driving his car out of Chicago out into the suburbs
and rural areas of Illinois, a map of the state on the passenger seat next
to him. He had just been beaten for U.S. Congress on the South Side, just
gotten a short end of the stick from incumbent Bobby Rush, but here he was
driving alone with guts and hope in a place where people had never voted
for a African-American candidate. Never been asked to and he was running
for the U.S. Senate, and that`s why Barack Obama was able to stride on to
the stage at the Democratic National Convention up in Boston in 2004
because he had the nerve to drive out of Chicago into the burbs and small
rural towns and asked people to make a bet on him, to give him a chance.

That was my message to these young people this weekend at Howard
University, get out there and ask people to invest in you, make a bet on
you. If they resist, make them say no to you, make them do it, never ever
say no to yourself. Get out there and go for the yes, and again, never say
no to yourself.

I know it`s easy to say that, but it doesn`t stop it for being true.
And being awarded an honorary doctorate from Howard University is one of
the great honors of my life. I`m also grateful of course to President
Ribeau, to members of the board of trustees, including the Bernard family
and to the students and the class of 2012 for their wonderful reception out
there at the Howard campus.

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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