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updated 5/31/2012 3:42:12 PM ET 2012-05-31T19:42:12

Guests: Hampton Pearson, Joan Walsh, David Corn, Michael Smerconish, Joe Williams, P.J. Crowley, Paul Eaton, John Lewis, Sam Stein

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Lumped with Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Philadelphia. Let me start
with that honeymoon going on out in Las Vegas. What has Donald Trump got
on Mitt Romney? Is it fear? Is the Republican nominee for president
afraid of what an unleashed Trump might say about him? Is he afraid to
tell Trump to drop the crap he`s been throwing, afraid he might start
slinging it at him?

Well, this is about political character. George F. Will and now Mark
McKinnon represent a growing group of Republicans grown-ups out there
demanding that Romney show some independence from Trump and leave Trump to
sit in his playpen blowing his little noisemakers all alone.

David Corn and Joan Walsh are here to tell us what the Romney motive
could possibly be. Is the Donald on the short list for VP? Does he think
Romney`s got something there with this birther stuff? Will he be in his
kitchen cabinet if he`s elected? What?

Let`s go -- let`s bring in right now Joan Walsh. And I want to --
first of all, fellows, I want you to watch this thing. Republican
strategist Mark McKinnon told "The New York Times today, quote -- and he
said it so well -- "I think who Romney stands with says a lot about what
he`ll stand for. Associating with Trump seems to only reinforce the
narrative on Romney that team Romney wants to -- team Obama wants to push,
which is that Romney is an out-of-touch rich guy without any real core,
which means he`ll associate with anyone if he thinks it will further his
ambition." That`s Mark McKinnon.

Joan Walsh, your thinking? Is it along those lines?

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is, very much
so, Chris. I mean, you know, he`s been called a perfectly lubricated
weathervane by our friend Jon Huntsman, his friend.

But I think it goes even farther than that. I think it`s very
cowardly not to distance himself from Donald Trump. I think that, you
know, it`s a sign he wants to leave no wingnut behind. He doesn`t feel
that the base loves him enough, that he can just count on turning them out
in November. They`ve been a little bit tepid. And so he wants to rely on
the Trump magic and the Trump name.

And I think, you know, after yesterday -- I will never forget the
sight of Mitt Romney deplaning next to the big Trump sign behind him, like
a wholly owned subsidiary. So it`s cowardly, but it also really brings in
this birther nonsense. No matter what they try to say, he validates
Trump`s birther nonsense and keeps it part of the conversation. Trump is
loving every minute of it. And Romney needs to...

MATTHEWS: Of course he is.

WALSH: ... stand up to him, but won`t.

MATTHEWS: He`s calling the -- he`s the piper. He`s the piper.

WALSH: Right. He absolutely is.

MATTHEWS: David Corn, it seems to me that Joan`s got a point here...

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

MATTHEWS: ... which is a real point, which is the guy wants to be the
hard right on every issue. He wants to be with the neocon hawks on foreign
policy. He wants to be With Grover Norquist on tax policy. He wants to be
with the Liberty University crowd down with Pat Robertson crowd down in
Virginia on Christian religious issues. And on birtherism, he wants to be
seen with Trump so that nobody gets to his right on any issue.

CORN: Well, I feel like I`m Bill Murray here. Again we`re talking
about Trump and birtherism. We thought we went through this with Romney.

But you know, the point that I`ve made on this show and elsewhere,
Chris, is that Romney again and again sort of flirts with a pale version of
birtherism in which he says Barack Obama doesn`t really understand America,
doesn`t think America is unique, doesn`t think it`s special, which is his
way of saying Obama`s not really a true American. He`s not one of us.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: So it`s -- so you know, he plays footsie with that notion that
birtherism is supposed to advance, that Obama is not truly American.

And I can`t think of a better contrast. Yesterday, the president of
the United States -- who was he hanging out with? John Glenn, Toni
Morrison, John Doer (ph), a great Civil Rights, you know, hero...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: ... Pat Summit (ph), the basketball coach. And what was Mitt
Romney doing? Hanging out Trump. And I think Joan was right, that visual
of the big Trump airplane, you almost expect Mitt Romney to put Trump on
the White House, should he win. I mean, it`s kind of ridiculous!

MATTHEWS: You know, you`re so right. And another -- another pearl of
wisdom there -- I mean, really, I mean it -- the fact that Trump is sort of
the godfather of birtherism now. But he has now Romney as one of his
acolytes out there saying that -- basically, what he`s saying, guys, is
he`s saying that President Obama is basically an anchor baby, somebody
who`d be technically born here under the 14th Amendment and therefore
deserves citizenship, but really isn`t one of us.

Here`s Chuck Todd, by the way, asking Mitt Romney`s campaign
spokesperson, Andrea Saul (ph), today about Donald Trump overshadowing what
otherwise was supposed to be a big day for Romney, when yesterday...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... he wrapped up the nomination by winning in Texas.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Any regrets
by the campaign of spending the day that you clinched the nomination with
Donald Trump?

ANDREA SAUL, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Donald Trump is a
supporter. You know, Governor Romney`s made it clear that they disagree on
some issues.

Governor Romney has said that he believes the president was born in
the United States. He said it repeatedly. He said that he thinks the
issue is closed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you know, then let`s take a look at Romney on Monday,
what he said, because I think what he said himself is far more informative
than what his spokesperson said there. Let`s look at what he said on
Monday of this week about the 50.1 percent, which is really the name of the
game for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t agree
with all the people who support me. My guess is they don`t all agree with
everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more, and I`m
appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here is his other spokesperson, Donald Trump, tweeting
today. What a perfect method of communication for him. "I want to see
Barack Obama`s college records now"...

WALSH: Oh!

MATTHEWS: ... "to see how he listed his place of birth in the
application." In fact, yesterday Trump was interviewed by just about every
cable network out there with a working telephone. Let`s listen to him go
at it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (via telephone): A lot of people are
questioning his birth certificate. They`re questioning the authenticity of
his birth certificate. There are many people that don`t agree with that
birth certificate. They don`t think it`s authentic, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN`S "THE SITUATION ROOM": I don`t know, when
you say "many people" who don`t agree...

TRUMP: Many people.

BLITZER: Like who?

TRUMP: There are many people.

BLITZER: Give me a -- give me a name of somebody...

TRUMP: There are many people...

BLITZER: ... in a position of authority in Hawaii...

TRUMP: ... that do not believe...

BLITZER: ... who says -- well, give me name.

TRUMP: There are many people -- I don`t give names. There`s a lot of
questions as to the authenticity of the birth certificate. So you can
believe it or you don`t have to believe it. But certainly, there are many,
many questions. I actually think it`s a great issue for Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)


MATTHEWS: Well you know, I don`t know what to say there. I mean, Joan,
this is literal McCarthyism -- I don`t give names, I just say there are a
lot of names out there.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: You know, the idea that some guy in the street is yelling
across the street at him on 5th Avenue, Stay at it, Donald, because some
nutcase is yelling at him. That`s enough of an authority. So in other
words, here`s Donald Trump citing as his authority these characters yelling
across the street at him...

WALSH: Some lunatic.

MATTHEWS: ... who don`t know anything about anything, except they`re
sort of a derivative of "The New York Post," or worse...

WALSH: Well, this is...

MATTHEWS: ... if that`s possible.

WALSH: This is actually what -- this is what Mitt Romney is bringing
into the political mainstream, Chris. I mean, there`s no -- there`s no way
that he gets off without having to defend it. He can say he`s distancing
himself, but he has installed this carnival barker as one of his
surrogates. And he -- you know, he`s got a microphone.

Now, look, Trump always had a microphone, but this is giving him a
bigger one. And honestly, I thought that Trumpism was dying away after the
president humiliated him at the White House correspondents dinner and also
released his birth certificate.

But Mitt Romney went up to New York to kiss the ring a few months ago,
thinking, I need that guy. I need the birthers. I need the crazies
because the base doesn`t love me. So he already brought him back in, and
now by standing with him...

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you got a point.

CORN: And the thing -- the thing is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... you have a point here, guys.

CORN: The thing -- the thing...

MATTHEWS: David, I think what`s going on here is this is nuts. Just
a few months ago, as you pointed out, Joan, he went sneaking up to see him
in New York. He snuck in the back, made sure no pictures were taken...

CORN: Right.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... of the two of them together. This time around, they`re
acting like a honeymoon couple. I mean, this time around, they`re
embracing each other. They`re having photo ops.

WALSH: Las Vegas...

MATTHEWS: I think you`ve got something...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And he wants to be as far right as you can get in the
Republican Party on this issue of birtherism.

CORN: And he -- and he...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: And of course, he let Trump throw a birthday party fund-raiser
for his wife a few weeks ago.

WALSH: Right.

CORN: You know, the big issue here is -- take a step back. Can any
of us think of any moment in time when Mitt Romney showed any guts, did
anything, you know, that showed a spine? What happened with Ted Nugent?
Nothing. What happened when that woman said that Barack Obama should be
put on trial for treason? Nothing again.

I mean, he just -- you know, in his whole career, was there a point
when he stood up and did something difficult, distanced himself from an
ally, took a stand that might not be popular...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to his motive here...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Maybe his motive is not to be courageous. Maybe he doesn`t
want to be like John McCain was back last time around, when the issue of
ethnicity came up and playing the Reverend Wright number. But maybe he
wants to be a seen as a guy who does go down with the right as far as he
can go. Maybe he want us to be doing what we`re doing now, saying he`s so
far right, he`s hanging out with the birthers. Maybe that makes him
beloved by the birthers. Isn`t that his...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... significant slice?

CORN: He knows -- he knows that the name of the game for the next
five months is convincing the independents, who he alienated by making love
to conservatives, or trying to, during primaries and try to bring them
aboard and once again act like that moderate, reasonable Massachusetts
governor that he once was. And so...

MATTHEWS: But the independents aren`t necessarily moderates.

CORN: No, I`m not saying they`re moderates...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... moderates. There are a lot of Perot-ites out there in
the middle.

CORN: Well, no, I`m not saying...

WALSH: Right.

CORN: Well, I`m not -- but I mean, they like a moderate temperament.
They don`t want somebody out there who is "severely conservative" or more
or less hanging out with a kookball (ph), which is what this is -- the only
thing this is demonstrating.

So one theory I have is that he made a promise to Donald Trump to do
something with him when he got that endorsement in February, when he
thought he needed it, and the campaign thought best to do it sooner...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think he`s hanging out...

WALSH: Get it out of the way.

MATTHEWS: ... with this right-wing crowd because a lot of the people
in the middle, the so-called undecided -- but just think about who would be
undecided at this point in this election, somebody who`s not really paying
that much attention, somebody who`s...

WALSH: Well...

MATTHEWS: ... Joan, who`s turned off to everything that`s going on,
who`s so alienated, they probably buy this birther crap.

WALSH: He thinks he`s having his profile in...

MATTHEWS: Don`t you think?

WALSH: ... in courage by standing up -- he thinks he`s having a
profile in courage by standing up to his critics from the left. I mean,
John Harwood said this to Rachel last night, I`m not going to bow to MSNBC,
and distance himself from Trump. So that`s his idea of courage, rather
than a real moral moment.

CORN: You know, I don`t think...

MATTHEWS: I think he likes it over there.

CORN: Well, he -- well, he must.

MATTHEWS: Just remember his father was being -- his father -- we went
all through this earlier this week or last week. His father got beaten
because he was too moderate...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: His father is gutsy. You remember his father -- his father...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... walked out of the GOP convention in `64 to protest
Barry Goldwater`s opposition to Civil Rights. I mean, his father was a
profile in political courage for several times.

WALSH: Yes.

CORN: And yet we see nothing like that coming from Mitt Romney. So
he may have inherited the hair, but not the spine.

MATTHEWS: I`ll tell you, it`s just like W. The old man showed
moderation, the old man tried to balance the budget. He didn`t listen to
the right wing. The son became the biggest hawk in the world. The son
became the Grover Norquist type in the world. The son learns one lesson,
how not do win. They don`t learn the values of the father. They learn the
father lost. So their position seems to be...

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... guys, that, I don`t want to learn my old man`s values.
His values cost him an election. I want to win.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: I want to beat Daddy.

CORN: I don`t want to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... on our hands here. I think we got another one on our
hands...

CORN: That may be -- that may be...

MATTHEWS: ... another character. It`s very Oedipal. Anyway, thank
you, David Corn. Thank you, Joan Walsh.

Coming up: Now that he`s clinched the nomination -- he did it
yesterday in Texas -- what are the three biggest things Romney ought to be
afraid of in this presidential campaign? We`re trying to narrow it down.
We got some smart people. Does he -- by the way, does this guy have any
interest in foreign policy besides pretending he`s some kind of hawk? He`s
hitting President Obama on Syria, but he doesn`t actually have a position
of his own. He`s just another neocon mouthpiece.

Plus, what do Democrats have to deal with these Republican-sponsored
voter ID cards? What are they going to do, the Democratic street
politicians, to make sure the people in the row houses get to vote this
time? John Louis (ph) is coming here, a great man to talk about it.

"Let Me Finish" tonight, by the way, with my special plea that no
legitimate voter in this country is denied a ballot this November. I fear
what it be like -- what it will be like in this country if this election`s
decided by people being kept from the voting booth.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Want to see where presidential race is really being fought
right now? Well, check out this week`s top advertising markets in the
presidential campaign. At number 5, it`s Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
At number 4, Columbus, Ohio. Number 3, Greensboro, North Carolina. And
number two, Roanoke-Lynchburg, very good. And the market with the most ads
in the presidential campaign this week, political ads, Norfolk -- Norfolk,
Virginia.

There you have it, the cities where the most ad money`s being spent
right now, and all those five markets are in states that Mitt Romney must
win. They`re traditionally red states. And that`s very good news right
now, at least, for team Obama.

We`ll be right back.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Yesterday, we brought you the
top three things the Obama campaign should worry about between now and
November. Well, today it`s Romney`s turn. Here to break down what the
Romney team should be worried about are radio talk show host and MSNBC
political analyst Michael Smerconish and the HuffingtonPost`s senior
politics editor, Sam Stein.

Gentlemen, let`s take a look at this. An economic boomlet is top of
the list of things the Romney campaign should be concerned about. I think
we all agree on that, Michael.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
The Romney campaign is totally predicated on the economy. I can`t see him
thus far or from now through November getting traction on any other issue.
There`s kind of a turnabout going on thus far in the cycle, where foreign
policy, which is normally the strong suit of the Rs, I think is a distinct
advantage for the Ds. So Mitt Romney needs to fear an economy that`s
getting better.

MATTHEWS: OK, same question to you, Sam. A boomlet of any kind in
the third quarter is probably the worst possible news for him.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Yes, I completely agree. And you`re
starting to see them prepare for such a thing to happen. On the trail
yesterday, Mitt Romney said what he said before, which is the economy is
recovering slowly despite what the president did. It`s almost like an
insurance policy for the Romney campaign to make the argument that even
Obama -- even the stimulus package didn`t have an effect on the economy.

But Michael`s right. If the jobs numbers improve from where they are
right now, if the economy gets better, I think Mitt Romney is out of a
premise for candidacy, and that`s really, you know, the worst thing that
could happen for him.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about something else that developed here.
It`s -- I think it`s your thinking here, Sam. Let me ask you about this
one. A bad Romney story out there, dug up by good enterprise reporting --
you argue that, basically, Romney`s background hasn`t been vetted like
Obama`s has. There`s an opportunity out there for good investigative
reporting.

If something`s going to pop, it`s probably going to pop for Romney,
but we don`t know if there`s anything there yet, right?

STEIN: Correct. Yes, and you know, this is just part of the process
of general election campaigning. Obama`s been through it and Romney
hasn`t. I know there`s a theory out there that Obama hasn`t really been
vetted, but if you think back to 2008, there were so many stories written
about his background, his childhood, his time at Harvard, his time in the
Senate, that you know, anything that`s new will come out from his
administration records.

Whereas with Mitt Romney, you know, the narrative is basically
confined to his run for governor and his failed presidential bid in 2008.
The stories that we see so far involve his time at prep school, about his
Mormon faith. There`s going to be more of that simply by the fact that
journalists in D.C. haven`t had the chance to pour over these records and
are all going to be running and competing with one another for the next big
Romney story.

So you know, his campaign has to be cognizant of the fact that they`re
going to be under more scrutiny, I think, from now until November than the
president will be.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at this possibility of another big
foreign policy success story. Michael Smerconish, my friend, you`ve been
very much concerned from day one after 9/11 that we`ve got to catch the bad
guys who did what they did to us on 9/11 and stay off these other
distractions.

Now, here, your thought here -- a big al Qaeda kill (ph) is another
scenario that could really concern Romney because it would show the
president to be one tough customer in protecting this country. Give us
your scenario, what that might be.

SMERCONISH: Well, I think the scenario is Ayman al Zawahiri because
so many of the others have been eliminated.

And I know, Chris, you saw that "New York Times" front-page story and
discussed it yesterday.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMERCONISH: That was an amazing story about the kill list that the
president keeps.

So many of these names I think begin to run together for the American
people. It`s almost like who is the number two in the PLO? And it was an
interchanging directorate. But the one guy who is still out there that I
think would really resonate with the American people, bin Laden`s number
two, the now presumed number one of al Qaeda. And if we should get him
between now and November, I think that would be significant.

MATTHEWS: Let me get Sam in on that whole question.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know how much firepower literally foreign policy
success does have for Obama. I know it`s his best defense now. You can`t
hit him on this because he is so strong.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s good armor. Is it good firepower if he catches
another bad guy through this really kind of aggressive campaign of finding
the people and killing them?

STEIN: Sure.

Well, I would hate to disagree with the -- disagree with the great
Michael Smerconish, but I do. And the reason is because he got the big
one. He got bin Laden. It happened obviously a little more than a year
ago, but the actual political bump from doing that was fairly marginal, all
things considered.

And you look at these polling numbers about what motivates voters
going into this election, foreign policy and national security are so far
down below the list, below jobs, below deficit, that it just seems like the
American public is sort of tuned out to this whole thing.

Now, conversely, I think if there were a terrorist attack, a
successful one, that would be really problematic for this White House, even
with all the successes he`s heard to date. So I do agree with you. It is
good armor. When Mitt Romney has said that the president has been weak
abroad, all he has to do is point to bin Laden. But in terms of sort of a
proactive case to be reelected, I`m not sure what kind of legs it has.

MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, let me ask you to finish up this question,
because I have looked at -- we have looked at the fact that an economic
boom obviously in the late summer could really blow Romney out of the
saddle.

Anything that blows up about his personal life or his political life
is going to be bad because he is such an open book right now -- actually a
closed book. We don`t know what is there yet in terms of his background,
like we do about Obama.

But why doesn`t the president get more credit, if you will, at the
ballot box and the polling for having got the guy that W. never seemed to
be really that interested in getting? And he got him and nailed him.

SMERCONISH: Well, I think there has been a fairly effective job done
by the president`s opponents, who want to say that the predicate was put in
place by the Bush administration.

STEIN: Yes.

SMERCONISH: And to a certain extent, that`s true. But what they
overlook is the fact that as far as back 2007, then Senator Barack Obama
was saying, look, I will go even into Pakistan if that`s what it is going
to take.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMERCONISH: And he was ridiculed for it by both Senator Clinton,
Senator McCain, even his now Vice President Joe Biden, who all wanted to
portray him as being naive.

So, I think he is deserving of a great deal of credit. And, look, at
a minimum, he has neutralized what is normally a trump car, no pun
intended, for the GOP...

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SMERCONISH: ... to say, the Democratic candidate is weak.

They can`t say that about this president.

STEIN: Fair enough.

MATTHEWS: Well, you said it right up front today, Michael. And
that`s the great irony in this campaign is the Democrats, what we used to
call in the old days the mommy party, has been pretty good at the
fisticuffs, the tough foreign policy stuff Republicans were known for
through out the Cold War.

Anyway, thank you Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia, at another
location in Philly. I`m in one, you`re in the other.

And, Sam Stein, of course your great thinking coming in here.

STEIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: Mitt Romney`s new phone app goes viral, but for
all the wrong reasons, more craziness about that crowd over there. That is
coming up in the "Sideshow," where it belongs.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": You as first
lady, you have an approval rating of like 85, 90 percent. Like, it`s...

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: It`s not that high.

STEWART: ... through the roof. Your approval rating is like, you`re
ice cream. Your husband`s approval rating, it`s like astronaut ice cream.

M. OBAMA: He`s vegetables.

STEWART: It`s vegetables.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s it. We`re in the "Sideshow." And that was
the first lady last night on "The Daily Show."

Well, Mitt Romney`s campaign put out a new iPhone app that lets users
upload their own personal photo with a "I`m With Mitt" banner. It went
viral, but not for the reason the Romney people were hoping for. Here is
an example from a Tumblr account.

Probably not the campaign`s favorite photo, by the way, Mitt Romney
surrounded by money. But does the word America strike you here as a bit
off? They spelled the name of our country wrong here.

And there are other more fun ones out there that have come from like
the Etch A Sketch version. That is out there now too. You can see it.

Speaking of campaign strategies gone bad, remember Christine
O`Donnell`s shining moment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O`DONNELL (R), FORMER DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I`m
not a witch. I`m nothing you have heard. I`m you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, "TIME" magazine`s Michael Scherer points out another
candidate out there who is going with the "I`m not a" fill in the blank.
His campaign does the same thing, Republican Joe Coors, who is running for
Congress out in Colorado.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE COORS (R), COLORADO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Hi. Joe Coors here
running for Congress.

I know what you`re thinking. But I`m not that. I`m a manufacturer.
Here in Golden, Colorado, I helped build the largest technical ceramics
company in the world. It`s time to stop Washington`s reckless borrowing
and spending. We need to send commonsense businesspeople to Congress.

My name is Joe Coors. I am not a beer. And I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, he may not be a beer, but he is a Coors. Don`t
forget it.

Finally, you think Tea Party, you think smaller government, right? So
why does Pete Hoekstra, the co-founder to the House Tea Party Caucus in the
Congress, a candidate for Senate, by the way, and a birther to boot, want
to add a new office of government in Washington? What issue? What issue
could be so crucial?

Well, Hoekstra whipped out his idea during a town hall meeting early
this month when an attendee started with the birther talk, and now that
video of that conversation has hit the Internet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I hate to say it, but I
think the debate is over. We lost that debate and we lost that debate in
2008 when our presidential nominee said, I ain`t talking about it.

OK? I`m sorry. We would like to a three-person office in Washington,
D.C., OK, knowing it will grow to five.

(LAUGHTER)

HOEKSTRA: OK?

But there is no reason why we should have this kind of a question.
Someone would have to walk into that office and prove that they meet the
minimum qualifications to be president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And what would be the job requirements for these three new
public officials on that board? Wouldn`t they need to have another bureau
out there to certify them? This thing is never going to end, this
birtherism.

Up next: What`s the Democrats` plan to deal with those Republican
efforts to require voters to show government-issued photo I.D.s? We`re
going to get some answers from the great U.S. Congressman John Lewis. He
is coming up next.

And you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Worries about bond yields in Spain and Italy sink stocks. The Dow
drops 161 points. The S&P falls 19. The Nasdaq loses 33.

The selling continues in Facebook shares. The stock shed another 2
percent today to finish about $28 a share. Oil prices slumping about $3 to
close to below $88 a barrel, and pending home sales fell 5.5 percent in
April to a four-month low. Economists expected a slight gain.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder, while addressing
controversial state voter I.D. laws emerging across the country, took time
to honor the generations of Americans who fought for voting rights in the
first place.

Let`s watch the attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would argue that of all the
freedoms that we enjoy today, none is more important or more sacred than
the right to vote.

Now, our efforts honor the generations who have taken extraordinary
risks and willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance, as well as
billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs, to ensure that their
children and all citizens would have the chance to participate in the work
of their government.

Without those people, there would be no Eric Holder, there would be no
Barack Obama -- and we must never forget that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, one of the heroes that attorney general mentioned is
my next guest, an icon of the civil rights movement, U.S. Congressman John
Lewis, Democrat of Georgia.

He has authored a great new book, "Across That Bridge: Life Lessons
and a Vision For Change."

Welcome, Congressman.

Let`s -- I want to quote something from your book. It`s about the
Voting Rights Act. It`s under attack even now in 2012, you argue -- quote
-- "That is why it is very important to remain engaged, especially when it
is aggravating the vote. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we
have to make change in a democratic society, but one vote will not make all
the change that is necessary. Change requires patient, persistent action."

So, what -- tell me -- speak now to the young people out there, as
well as the older people. Why is this issue of voting rights and what you
achieved back in `65 important today?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, Chris, thank you so much for
having me.

I truly believe, I really do, in my heart, in my gut, that the vote is
the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society. And we
must use it. We must use it, or we will lose it. It doesn`t matter
whether you are low-income, whether you`re middle-income or whether you`re
a billionaire. We all have one vote.

And every single vote must be counted. So it is important that people
go out, register, and vote like you never voted before. I think, Chris,
there`s a deliberate, systematic attempt to win or steal this election
before it takes place with the voter I.D., ending early voting, making it
almost impossible for young people, for students, for our seniors, for
minorities to participate, for the disabled to participate.

It`s a sin. It is obscene to tell people that it is going to be hard,
it`s going to be tough for you to cast a vote. That`s not right. It`s not
fair and it`s not just.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Lewis, I hear every word you say. And I`m worried,
worried, worried about this.

I`m going to talk about it at the end of the show. I`m up here in
Pennsylvania, which has just passed a law, it`s been signed by the
Republican governor, passed by a Republican legislature, that says you need
a government-issued photo I.D. card. If you don`t have one on Election Day
this year, and you cast a vote, all you get is a provisional vote that
doesn`t become a real vote unless you, within six days, show up with a
government-issued I.D. card, photo I.D. card.

What are people who want to have everybody vote going to be able to do
about these laws that have already been put in the books?

LEWIS: Well, I`m very worried also, Chris.

That`s why a group of my colleagues, more than 130 members of the
Democratic House, have introduced a piece of legislation. It probably will
not get passed in this Congress. But we want people to use it to organize,
to mobilize, and when we take back the majority, we will pass a voter act
that would improve the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

People cannot use an excuse of not having a voter I.D. In some
communities all across America, churches are providing people about with a
voter I.D. But a voter I.D. is almost like a poll tax. It is the form of
a literacy test, saying to people, like in the state of Texas, even a
student I.D. cannot qualify. But a gun permit I.D. will qualify.

MATTHEWS: I know.

LEWIS: That is obscene.

MATTHEWS: Well, what happens if this November we get up Wednesday
morning, Congressman, and we realize that a state like Pennsylvania has
gone for Romney, not because most people wanted Romney over Obama in
Pennsylvania, but that most people or a lot of people weren`t allowed to
vote because they live in row houses, they don`t own an automobile?

Like, my grandparents were like that. And neighborhoods that are now
African-Americans, the same row houses, these people are older. They`re
city people. They use the subway. They use mass transportation. They
don`t own cars. They don`t have driver`s licenses.

And, by the way, once you`re 75 or 85 years old, you don`t want to be
driving a car.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So the question is, how do they get voter I.D. cards with a
picture on it?

LEWIS: Well, I think, right now, not waiting until October or
November, but the Lawyers` Committee for Civil Rights, the ACLU, the NAACP
Legal Defense Fund and different voters groups must go into court and get
an injunction against these states, county government for using this form
to try to discourage people from participating.

To be able to cast a vote should be very simple, like getting a glass
of fresh water.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree with you. Same-day registration would be fine
with me.

Hey, thank you.

And, once again, here is your book, "Across the River" -- "Across That
Bridge." How can I say "Across the River"? "Across That Bridge," your
great history of civil rights and your involvement in it.

It`s an honor to have you on, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

LEWIS: Well, thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Joe Williams, by the way, is a White House reporter for
Politico.

Fill in some of the details here if you can what the congressman has
done here. What is going to be done now in reality, not in theory or moral
victories, but how are the people going to get to vote? Given all these
laws like in Georgia passed in 2007. Pennsylvania law just passed this
year that require these very onerous requirements to get to just simply
vote.

JOE WILLIAMS, POLITICO: It`s interesting because it almost seems
like when Barack Obama put his hand on the Bible in 2008 or 2009 rather,
like the `60s, all of a sudden, it evaporated. Yet, they`re going to get
some tactics from the `60s and start educating people through mass drives,
going into churches, getting pastors and parishioners to talk about this in
church and with each other, with their neighbors. As you mentioned, go
door to door, knocking on row houses to make sure everyone knows what the
law is and that everyone is prepared to meet the law when the polls open in
November.

MATTHEWS: I actually think it could be, you know, a surprisingly
positive thing. Of course, it`s done for all the wrong reasons of course.
But if this energizes the local political organizations and the committee
people in big cities, to actually get out there and go door to door, and
really work with the voters and make sure they get to the motor vehicles
office and make sure they get that ID card, this could energize people as a
-- maybe it`s a bigger hurdle than they shouldn`t have to face under the
law. It shouldn`t be this complicated. But if they can go out there and
pass this hurdle and do this work politically at the local level, you might
be able to reenergize local politics in this country, maybe.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s certainly might be a side effect. Whenever I
hear John Lewis talk about these sorts of thing, all I have are the images
of the Pettus Bridge back then ands the fact that that hurdle overcome then
was so much higher.

MATTHEWS: Sure.

WILLIAMS: The hurdle here is still in place. I mean, we shouldn`t
have to have a hurdle in the first place. But since it`s here, they`re
going to make sure everyone clears it and that can be energizing, sort of
catalytic effect to get people to the polls and to recognize how precious
this right is to cast a ballot in a free and fair nation, and have other
people in this nation who died for that right -- have that right be
sustained through overcoming what certainly is an adversity-filled
campaign.

MATTHEWS: Do you get a sense there might be a real effort to drive
down the minority vote? Look at this effort first of all. It`s aimed at
urban areas, where people don`t own cars. Older people that live in row
houses, rely on public transportation like Cleveland, not -- Philadelphia
certainly, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, cities like that.

WILLIAMS: Right.

MATTHEWS: We have close state elections, but you have minority
communities that are bunched together in cities. And then they go after
the ministers. They go after same sex to turn to church people against the
Democrats. It does -- you do wonder about this, how this is working to try
to get down the natural or expected I should say vote -- strong vote for
the president in the black community, to be blunt about it.

WILLIAMS: Well, and it`s -- it`s hard not to see some dots and
seeing dots is hard now to connect them, because have you not only the
matter where a lot of these voting rights laws are enacted. Thirty-four
states nationwide, a lot of the more tightened ones, a lot of the stricter
ones are happening in battleground states, Pennsylvania where you are,
Ohio, Wisconsin has got a voter ID law that a lot of people are
challenging. And it looks like there`s an effort to sort of place the
thumb on the scale.

You couple that with a lot of what has been talked about with
defunding unions, those kinds laws where people aren`t getting the right to
collective bargaining. Unions do what? They register people to vote.
There`s also been a crackdown on third party organizations, League of Women
Voters, NAACP, anybody who does active voter registration drives, now has
to overcome a second hurdle and make sure that their organization is set up
strictly for social program.

So, it`s a lot of interesting things that are happening. It`s hard
not to see it when you take the big picture view here.

MATTHEWS: So well said. Thank you, Joe.

By the way, advice to people who were stuck with this kind of attack,
it may be too late to change the law. If you don`t use it, you lose it.

Up next, Mitt Romney is leading the Republican (INAUDIBLE) voice out
there attacking President Obama over Syria now. Mr. Macho Man, Mitt
Romney, the warrior he is now, I guess, listening to the neocons becoming
their tool. It`s horrible. Just like W.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The Wisconsin governor`s recall election is just six days
away now. We have new poll numbers to give you. Let`s check the HARDBALL
score barred. According to a new Marquette Law School poll out today, it`s
Republican Governor Scott Walker opening up a seven-point lead now. Walker
is up 52-45 over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee.

The poll also asked Wisconsin voters about the presidential race and
it`s President Obama here with eight-point lead in the Badger State over
Mitt Romney. He is up, the president, 51-43.

I guess people are voting incumbent out there.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Amid escalating violence over there in Syria, where last week, dozens
of children were brutally killed. The United States and several other
countries have expelled Syrian diplomats in a move to pressure the Assad
regime. But back home, Mitt Romney condemned the Obama administration for
leaning on diplomacy.

In a statement issued yesterday, Romney said, quote, "President
Obama`s lack of leadership has resulted in a policy of paralysis that has
watched Assad slaughter 10,000 individuals. We should increase pressure on
Russia to cease selling arms to the Syrian government and to end its
obstruction at the United Nation. And we should work with the partners to
arm the opposition so they can defend themselves."

P.J. Crowley is a former State Department spokesman, and Major
General Paul Eaton, rather, served more than three decades in the U.S.
Army.

I want it start with Major Eaton on this matter. Is this president
simply -- rather not this president, this president wannabe, Mitt Romney.
Is he simply surround by the same people who surround W., who used their
intellectual superiority over the president in Iraq to talk him on the war
in Iraq -- are they doing the same thing to always push this candidate on
the Republican Party to be hawkish at every moment on every front?

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, U.S. ARMY (RET): Chris, good to be with you.

And it certainly seems to be that way. A lot of neo cons putting out
a lot of papers that this former governor may or may not be reading. We
can`t tell.

But I`ll tell you the military is bemused consistently by people with
no military experience who wish to resort to military action as a primary
activity. I mean, Governor Romney road the war out as a missionary in
Paris. This is not a guy with serious credentials for foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: So, where does he come out with these burps of foreign
policy wisdom? Where does this need to always go to war, to arm the
rebels, to challenge Iran, to say they will not have a nuclear weapon
because I say so? Where does this -- is this all a metaphor since he has
no real tangible experience ever carrying a gun or being in a fist fight in
high school in high school?

No sense in his family history of military role, father or son,
nobody in that family has ever been involved with even ROTC, where does he
get the wherewithal to talk like he is a foreign policy hawk? Who`s
writing the script?

EATON: It is a neocon reflex to militarize foreign policy. It is a
neocon approach -- it`s a hammer and a nail. All you have is a hammer, the
whole world looks to be a nail. They refuse to pursue a diplomatic
approach which is certainly what we need to do here in Syria.

MATTHEWS: Let me go right now to P.J. Crowley, because he spoke for
the State Department so effectively I believe all these years and all those
years.

And I`m just wondering what do we make of this guy -- he does remind
me of somebody who suddenly being scripted to talk like some kind of a
tough guy internationally. And I just wonder where it comes from. What`s
the genesis of this Mitt Romney tough guy?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Well, of course, Chris,
as you know, there`s a difference between campaigning and governing. He is
trying to create differences that may or may not exist. Most of what he
outlined the Obama administration has considered is doing or has considered
and rejected.

You know, on the subject for example of arming the opposition, well,
the Gulf states are already doing that because Syria is a proxy war, you
know, with Iran. But also, be careful what you wish for.

You know, in the context of Libya, for example, Libya is awash with
arms, and once the war has ended, now the new central government is having
a tough time reining in, you know, these armed militias that are now
challenging the authority of the new government. So, that`s a difference
between ultimately, something that sounds good in the campaign, but may not
be the best policy approach.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice who is being
talked about in some circles to be the next secretary of state, responding
to calls to arm the Syrian opposition today on "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS".
Let`s listen to the ambassador to the U.N.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: For those who are
advocating arming the position, they really ought to consider the
consequences of that approach. And also to ask frankly, who are they
arming inside of the Syrian opposition?

You know and we know it is not unified. It`s fragmented. They don`t
have common command and control. There are some extremist elements mixed
in there.

And we know much less about the leadership and the intentions of the
Syrian opposition than we did even of the Libyan opposition at the time.
And I want to remind you that we did not arm the Libyan opposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a sophisticated response to the Romney
argument that`s coming from the neocons.

But here is John McCain on Sunday, on FOX. Here is what he says,
knocking the president as he has been doing lately. Here is McCain.

(BEIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Horrible things are happening in
Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons
American leadership. The only conclusion you can draw is that this
president want dos kick the can down the road on all of these issues until
after the election. It`s really an abdication of everything that America
stands for and believes in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: General Eaton, what do you make of this back-and-forth
between ambassador to the U.N. and John McCain, who sometimes seems like
he`s bitter about everything? What`s going on here?

EATON: Chris, Senator McCain has not recovered from 2008. That
colors everything he says and does. And he is not pursuing complex nuanced
approaches to solving foreign policy problems. His answer is air strikes,
air strikes, air strikes. And he has marshaled other surrogates for
Governor Romney to have that same party line.

It`s unfortunate, and I am delighted to hear Ambassador Rice and the
subtlety with which he speaks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I agree with you, General Eaton, there
is nothing that the neocon intellectuals like more than an empty shell.
They found it in Dan Quayle. That they use very effectively. They found
in W., vacant attitude of foreign policy experience at all and they use
these guys to be super hawks, this new candidate for super hawk. They`re
going to feed him. They`re going to script him. And you won`t even know
where he came from because he`s going to be created in the months ahead by
the neocons.

Anyway, thank you, P.J. Crowley. And thank you, Major General Paul
Eaton.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with my special plea that no
legitimate voter this fall is denied the right to vote.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with my special plea that no
legitimate voter will be denied a ballot this November.

If this election turns out to be close and it may well be close, do
we want to wake up Wednesday morning with a president selected not because
he got the most votes, but because enough voters were kept from casting a
ballot?

We had the screw up in Florida many years ago and the intervention by
the Supreme Court that put W. into office. So, with all over 500,000 votes
short of Al Gore`s total.

We`ve had Citizens United allowing billionaires to have unlimited
sway in what we see and hear about candidates at election time. Does
either side want an election decided by the inability of lifelong voters to
have their say, to have their vote that mattered, to have their ballots
counted?

I don`t doubt some people would sit and chortle with their friends at
how much fun it would be the grab the presidency by grabbing away some old
person`s ability to vote to send them back to their row houses, hurt and
humiliated, having been told they are not legitimate voters, they`re not to
play a rule in what is for them a historic election. It would be an
assault on our democracy -- worse than Watergate, worse that the electoral
dumb show that led to W. taking office. It will show you a real Citizens
United. There will be a rebellion in the streets if this election is
decided by an outrageous, in-your-face denial of the most basic freedom,
the right to choose our country`s leader.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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