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updated 7/5/2012 10:20:33 AM ET 2012-07-05T14:20:33

Guests: Maggie Haberman, Jon Soltz, Patrick Murphy, Erin McPike, Jonathan
Krohn

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: Repeal or get real?

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: What to expect when you`re rejecting. Mitt
Romney says it all the time, repeal and replace health care reform. But
replace it with what? He doesn`t say. And repealing health care reform
may not be as easy as it sounds. Can they do it? Do they really want to
take away what people all the things that people like about the law?

And shades of the Republican trashing of war hero Max Cleland,
Congressman Joe Walsh suggests that his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, is not a
true hero, that she talks too much about her military service. Duckworth,
you may remember, lost both of her legs and the use of one arm in Iraq.

Plus, fires in Colorado, drought sin the West, more than 3,000
temperature records in June. Is global warming to blame? This is exactly
what scientists have been predicting. How long can the right wing continue
to insist that what we`re seeing is a hoax?

And remember Jonathan Krohn, the 13-year-old darling of the right?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KROHN, AUTHOR, "DEFINING" CONSERVATISM: So I decided that
there were too many people who threw this -- the term "conservative"
around, who didn`t understand what they were talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Apparently, Jonathan Krohn admits he was one of them.
Now he says he was naive. And Jonathan is joining us tonight.

Finally, in the "Sideshow," how the right managed to conclude that
President Obama is abandoning America for evil Europe on Independence Day.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

We begin with health care and whether Republicans could really repeal
it. Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican Party. He`s an MSNBC
political analyst. Maggie Haberman writes for Politico. Welcome to both
of you.

Republicans have vowed to repeal Obama`s health care law. Now, to do
that, Mitt Romney would have to win and Republicans would need to retake
the Senate, and even then, it could be complicated.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that yesterday when
speaking a group back home in Kentucky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: (INAUDIBLE) thought it
was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction. I`d
say the odds are still on your side because it`s a lot harder to undo
something than it is to stop it in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Maggie Haberman, is there a clear path for the GOP to
repeal "Obama care"?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICO.COM: There is a clear path in the sense
that they don`t need a cloture vote. It doesn`t have to be 60 senators.
But as you said, they have to retake the Senate. That is the biggest step.
It`s not easy to undo an entitlement program, and that is essentially what
we`re talking about here.

So when it gets to the issue of whether this would be hard, you would
be going against something that the Supreme Court ruled upon. I think that
this is something that Republicans are mindful of. It is a good rallying
cry for the base, but the reality is the optics of undoing what the Supreme
Court did are very serious. And I think that`s what people are talking
about.

SMERCONISH: Michael Steele, a piecemeal approach or do you think, in
one fell swoop, they would attempt to get rid of "Obama care"?

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think
you`ll see in the House, one fell swoop. Next week, they`ll do a big,
broad vote to undo the whole thing. Certainly, the -- you know, the nub of
this is defunding it outright. That`s the quickest way to try to do it.

But Maggie`s right, once you get to the Senate, everything stops and
there will be no action on this issue in the United States Senate. After
all, they haven`t even passed a budget yet, so I don`t think they`ll
address this economic issue.

So the reality for the Republicans politically is to use it as a tool
to get the base in the game, to keep them in the game, fired up, supporting
Mitt Romney, which of course, has its own slippery slope on the issue of
health care. But the reality of it is, this is not going to be easy to do
because it is entrenched. It is part of the government process already
begun before you get to -- before you get to next year, the pieces that are
already in place, and to undo that will be really sticky.

SMERCONISH: Well, let`s go deeper on the politics. Take a look at
one of the findings from a new Kaiser Family poll on health care. A
majority, 56 percent, say opponents of the law should stop trying to block
it.

Not every Republican agrees. Steven Law is the CEO of the super-PAC
American Crossroads. He wrote this after the ruling. Quote, "While we
would have preferred to see `Obama care` struck down, this decision will
drive Republican voter intensity sky high. The last time `Obama care` was
litigated in a general election, Republicans picked up a historic number of
seats in the U.S. House and made big gains in the U.S. Senate."

Now, conservative writer David Frum disagrees. He wrote that the idea
of repealing "Obama care" is a fantasy. Even if Republicans win the White
House and the Senate this year, he questioned whether they will really have
the appetite for a fight.

Quote, "Suddenly, it will be their town halls filled with outraged
senior citizens whose benefits are threatened, their incumbencies that will
be threatened. Already, we`re hearing that some Republicans wish to retain
the more popular elements of the Affordable Care Act."

Michael, if you were still running the RNC, how would you respond to
those dynamics? How would you advise members of the GOP to approach this
subject?

STEELE: Well, I think -- I think Frum`s approach is probably the more
correct one. The idea is, if you do a repeal and replace, the operative
word is "replace." And the people, whether they`re seniors or young people
or whoever they happen to be, are looking for or have an expectation that
you are going to replace it with something.

We all have identified those parts of this bill that are in good favor
with the American people. The Republicans consistently were in support of
those during this debate, as well, and in fact, proposed some of those
things, like portability, et cetera. So those pieces can be carved out and
repackaged as part of a new model of health care.

But I think an outward (ph) just kind of repeal without, you know,
fulfilling the expectation on replacing what you`ve now repealed is going
to be problematic.

SMERCONISH: Maggie, I`m equally interested to see the response on the
Democratic side of the aisle in the 2012 cycle. Meaning, will those
members of the party who voted for health care go out and campaign and
trumpet that support, something that clearly wasn`t done in the last
election?

HABERMAN: No, it`s a very good question. I mean, you already saw
last week, when this decision came down, some Senate candidates in red or
purple-red states tread very carefully on it -- North Dakota, Heidi
Heitkamp comes to mind. She walked a very careful line on it. I think you
are going to see a lot of people, you know, in the -- on the non-coastal
states in the Senate who are going to have a problem selling this.

Even in places where Obama`s numbers are better, this law is still not
necessarily a slam dunk. I think you`ve seen polls that show it`s getting
slightly more popular than it was before.

The question remains how this is going to play out with independent
voters. I think the bases of both parties are pretty set on this.

SMERCONISH: Solidified, right.

HABERMAN: Yes. And so I think that`s really where you`re going to
have the big question mark. There`s a very early indication that some
independent voters are tilting a little more toward, you know, the Obama
end of the spectrum than Romney`s, but I`m not sure that`s where this is
going to be in November. I also am not sure how much of a driver either
way for that little middle this is going to be once we get to November.

SMERCONISH: Well, Michael, I wonder where Mitt Romney will be in all
this. According to "The National Journal," quote, "Mitt Romney, after
giving a brief statement decrying the decision, has been virtually silent
on criticizing the health care law. He`s been on vacation. His campaign
has been giving off clear signals that it doesn`t want to make health care
a major part of the election. For an issue that`s supposedly potent
against Democrats, Romney`s campaign is declaring a ceasefire."

Is that reflective, do you think, of him being at Lake Winnepesauke or
do you think that`s the approach he`s going to take?

STEELE: I think it`s more of -- a combination of the two, but more
the latter. I think is the fact that, you know, it is not part of the
narrative for the fall campaign. The fall narrative is all about the
economy and jobs, and looking at how the numbers perform between now and
September, October is going to be critical.

Health care has a part to play in that, particularly with respect to
the tax revenue side of the equation and the spending, but it`s a very
limited, small portion of it. And I don`t think you want to see -- or they
want to see a great deal of emphasis on that, which, ironically, probably
now the Obama team absolutely wants to talk about after virtually running
away from this signature legislation for the last two years.

SMERCONISH: Maggie, still a lot being said about Eric Fehrnstrom`s
comments to Chuck Todd yesterday in terms of, Is it a tax, is it a penalty,
and so forth. That seems to have legs. I don`t think that was a gaffe on
his part. I think he was responding in the only way, frankly, that the
Romney campaign could have responded, given the Massachusetts record.

HABERMAN: Oh, I`m not sure about that. I mean, I think there are
people around Romney-land who say this was indeed an error. I think part
of it is that he started litigating the Massachusetts record, as you just
said, as opposed to trying to kind of pivot toward the future and framing,
you know, this equation the way they want to. It sort of accepted the
charge.

I think that there is a feeling among some Republicans that there is a
way for Mitt Romney to talk about "Obama care" without answering the
questions on Massachusetts. That may not be the answer some people want,
but there is a way to do it. And I think this is where they are getting
sort of tangled up.

One thing I would say -- I don`t actually think that either principal
wants to be talking about "Obama care" very much. I don`t think the
president does. And I don`t think that Mitt Romney does. I think it would
be worse for the president had the law been overturned, obviously, even
partially, but that said, I don`t think this is something that they want to
trumpet. It remains and unpopular law.

SMERCONISH: Well, maybe I`m hung up on the Fehrnstrom comment because
I work in cable...

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: ... because none of Governor Romney`s...

HABERMAN: No, no, no! A lot of people are hung up on it. I`m not
disagreeing with you. It is -- conservatives are upset about it. It has
life (ph).

SMERCONISH: You have to hear this because one of Governor Romney`s
main surrogates, Chris Christie, was asked about the comments that I`ve
just referred to having been made on MSNBC yesterday. And Fehrnstrom said
that Romney essentially agreed with Obama that the mandate is not a tax,
that it`s a penalty.

That position is in sharp contrast, of course, to what many
Republicans are arguing. And here is how Chris Christie responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Listen, let`s not focus on what
spokespeople are saying, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, yes.

CHRISTIE: Spokespeople get in and fill in space on the cable
stations. On offense. I care about what the candidate says. And Governor
Romney`s been very clear about what this election should be about. It`s
about reinvigorating our economy. It`s about releasing the entrepreneurial
spirit. Those are the things that this election`s going to be decided on,
not what a spokesperson says on a -- on a cable news station in July.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: And just to show how this confuses the Republican
message, take a look at how the chairman of the RNC bungled a response on
CNN this morning, talking again about Romney`s position on the mandate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama and Romney, per Fehrnstrom, you
know, say that this is a mandate and not a tax. What is the RNC`s position
on this?

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, our position is the same as Mitt
Romney`s position. It`s a tax. That`s the only way that the Supreme Court
came up with the decision that it did in order to make it constitutional.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Hey, Michael, one of the ramifications, I think, of the
Supreme Court decision is that many Americans are walking around saying,
Oh, the Supreme Court confirmed it`s a tax. And people who won`t be
subject to any increase are nevertheless thinking, I`m getting taxed to pay
for "Obama care."

STEELE: Yes. There is -- there is that element of confusion that now
exists out there. You`re, again, talking about a small percentage of the
people, those who not comply with the law, who would be subject to this
penalty/tax. And -- but the broader population believes it applies to
them.

That is part of the narrative that the RNC and Republicans around the
country are going to be driving home, which is why what was said yesterday
on the program was kind of a gaffe because it then flips the script, and
all of a sudden, now you have Romney, or at least his spokespeople, saying,
No, it`s a penalty, we agree with the president. And that just gives the
president a wider swathe to make the argument about his health care plan in
the face of a penalty versus a tax.

SMERCONISH: Appreciate both of you being here. Michael Steele an
Maggie Haberman, thank you.

Coming up, Congressman Joe Walsh is at it again. The man who told
President Obama to, quote, "Stop lying" now says his opponent, who lost her
legs in Iraq, isn`t a true war hero because she talks too much about her
military service. That`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Politico is out with its new list of the most competitive
Senate races, and here are the top five. At number five, Missouri, where
Democrat Claire McCaskill is in a tough fight against a yet to be
determined Republican. Number four, Nevada, where Republican senator Dean
Heller faces Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.

At number three, Montana and Senator Jon Tester`s battle against
Republican congressman Denny Rehberg. Virginia at number two, where Tim
Kaine and George Allen are in a dead heat.

And the most competitive Senate race in the country, Massachusetts and
that battle between Republican senator Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth
Warren. Remember, Republicans only need to win a net of four seats to take
control of the Senate.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Illinois Tea Party congressman
Joe Walsh, best known for calling the president a liar, finds himself under
fire for comments he made Sunday about his opponent, Iraq war veteran Tammy
Duckworth. Walsh suggested she`s not a, quote, "true hero" because, he
says, she discusses her military service too much.

Duckworth was a Blackhawk pilot who lost both her legs after her
helicopter was hit in 2004 and later went on to serve with the Department
of Veterans` Affairs.

Here Walsh`s comments caught on camera by Think Progress. He begins
by talking about John McCain`s campaign in 2008 and moves to his opponent.
Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: But understand something about John
McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost
throw him against the wall and hit him against the head and say, Senator,
you have to let people know you served. You have to talk about what you
did.

He wouldn`t -- didn`t want to do it, wouldn`t do it. Day after day,
they had to convince him. And finally, he talked a little bit about it,
but it was very uncomfortable for him. That`s what`s so noble about our
heroes.

Now, I`m running against a woman who -- I mean, my God, that`s all she
talks about.

(LAUGHTER)

Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it`s the last thing
in the world they talk about. That`s why we -- we are so indebted and in
awe of what they have done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: For more on this, let me bring in two veterans of the
Iraq war, former congressman Patrick Murphy and chairman of Votevets Jon
Soltz.

Mr. Soltz, how stoked are you about this?

JON SOLTZ, VOTEVETS.ORG: I don`t know if I`m stoked, I`m kind of
hurt. I mean, look, I -- if you look at the video, the worst part about it
-- I don`t know if you caught it at the end, but there was people in the
audience that were -- like, laughed.

SMERCONISH: Yes, they chuckled.

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTZ: I mean, really? Like -- I mean, look, I served two tours in
Iraq. I`ve been home six to eight months. It`s the hardest part in the
six to eight-month time period. It`s hurtful. I mean, we`re not even
asking this congressman, Joe Walsh, to apologize anymore. I mean, we`ve
been in a battle with him for a long time.

He first had told a Politico reporter several months ago that all
Tammy did was get shot out of a helicopter. You know, we later found out
that he challenged Tammy Duckworth to a debate at the same time she was at
military duty. And now this. And so I think he`s had a long track record
of sort of insulting her service.

And to her credit, I mean, at some point -- she actually doesn`t
oversell her service. I mean, John McCain may have written two books about
serving in Vietnam, but Tammy Duckworth has yet to really even talk about
her service.

To be frankly honest, Votevets talks about it. We did it. I mean, we
have an e-mailer out right now about this. It`s raised, you know, $20,000-
something just for her in small donations. So it`s appalling and it`s
hurtful.

SMERCONISH: In an interview with Politico in March of this year,
Walsh said this of Duckworth. "I have so much respect for what she did in
the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country. Eh. Now, let`s
move on. What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran. Eh. She`s
nothing more than a hand-picked Washington bureaucrat. David Axelrod, Rahm
Emanuel just picked her up and dropped her into this district."

Patrick Murphy, your thoughts.

PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, IRAQ WAR VETERAN:
Michael, let me tell you something. Every day, there are 18 veterans in
Iraq, Afghanistan wars, when they come home, they try and commit suicide.

And for Joe Walsh, a congressman, to attack Tammy Duckworth, a woman
who`s devoted her life to our country and her fellow veterans, working for
the veterans affairs office in Illinois, and in Washington for veterans all
over our country -- for him to attack her service...

Let me tell you something. Joe Walsh never served. He doesn`t know
what it`s like to leave your friends, leave your family to go serve for
months at a time in 130-degree heat that don`t know if you`re ever going to
see the people who you love again.

He doesn`t have the right to attack Tammy Duckworth`s service. Let me
tell you something else. He doesn`t even have a right now to vote as a
congressman on veterans issues because he has no idea what it`s about. He
is a disgrace. He`s an absolute disgrace!

SMERCONISH: Late this afternoon, Duckworth appeared on Martin
Bashir`s program here on MSNBC, and here was her response to Walsh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think that, you
know, he`s just irresponsible in his words and is irresponsible in his
actions. He`s trying to distract the constituents from the fact that he
has time and again done nothing for the district. In fact, anyone who`s
worn the uniform of this great nation for a single day has done more for
their nation than Joe Walsh has ever done.

It`s there`s anything about my service to this nation, it`s the fact that I
have lived an entire lifetime living up to my responsibilities, just like
our military men and women and their families do every single day. They
live up to their responsibilities. Mr. Walsh has never lived up to his
responsibilities. Certainly, he hasn`t done it in Congress.

And for him to bring Senator McCain into this, Senator McCain is a
great American, one that I respect greatly. And it`s too bad that he`s
again trying to muddy the waters and keep people away from the fact that
he`s done nothing to the good and for the benefit of the people in the
district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: One other element. I a statement to NBC News,
Congressman Walsh said in part -- quote -- "Of course Tammy Duckworth is a
hero. I have called her a hero hundreds of times in the past four months.
Just like every man and woman who has worn the uniform, her service
demands, demands our utmost respect. That`s why I recognize our veterans
at the beginning of every one of my public town halls. However, unlike
most I have had the honor to meet since my election to Congress who rarely,
if ever talk about their service or the combat they have seen, that is darn
near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about. Her service demands our
thanks and our respect, but not our vote."

Patrick Murphy, question for you. You were the first Iraq veteran to
be elected to the Congress. How do you balance, how do you know when you
have spoken enough, but not excessively, about your war service when
running for office, because you have confronted that?

MURPHY: Sure.

Listen, I -- I know Tammy Duckworth. I know Colonel Duckworth as a
friend and as a leader.

SMERCONISH: That`s her husband?

MURPHY: And what she went through seven -- no, Colonel Duckworth.
Tammy Duckworth is a colonel, lieutenant colonel.

SMERCONISH: Pardon me. I`m sorry.

I know that her husband served as well. That`s why I asked.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: He`s a major, so she outranks her husband.

SMERCONISH: OK.

MURPHY: But the fact is this, is that seven-and-a-half years ago, she
went through a very traumatic experience, which changed her life. And
she`s trying to use that horrible chapter in her life to make it better for
other veterans, the other 1 percent of our nation who have worn the cloth
of our country in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Now, as a candidate, of course, she`s going to have to talk about it a
little bit. But I know Tammy. I have seen her on the stump. I have seen
her in front of crowds. And she -- she actually downplays her service to
our country, her heroic service to our country.

So for Joe Walsh to try and bring in people like John McCain -- and
let me tell you something, the difference here is, is that when people
attack John McCain, like myself, I have a Facebook page, someone wrote a
comment that attacked John McCain.

John McCain`s an American hero. No one ever questions his service.
For people like Joe Walsh to question Tammy Duckworth or anyone who put
their lives in harm`s way -- and he has attacked her service multiple
times. This isn`t something that just happened. It`s a disgrace. And
that`s why Jon Soltz and so many other veterans, Democrats and Republicans
across our country, are calling for Joe Walsh to resign from Congress.

That`s how egregious what he`s doing is.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Soltz, it seems to me that military service used to
be sacrosanct. It used to be one of those issues that you wouldn`t dare be
critical, well, how could you, of someone for having served.

You look at John Kerry and the whole swift-boat issue, you look at Max
Cleland and what went on in that case, you now look at what is going on
with Ms. Duckworth and you wonder if there`s a pattern to all of it. What
do you see when you put it all together?

SOLTZ: Well, when we spend money all over the country helping Iraq
and Afghanistan veterans running for office, it`s the strongest positives
they have. It moves voters. What these Republican candidates like to do,
they like to try to tear it down.

And it hurts most -- with Tammy, like, it devastates me. Patrick`s
right in a sense of who she really is when you know her. I know Tammy
well. She`s one of my closest friends.

Her husband called me today. Jon, are you going to do this? Are you
going to help her? Of course. Like, you don`t have to call me and ask.
Tammy`s going to downplay it. She`s very calm, cool and collected on TV
about it.

I`m a jerk. Like, I will go after people. I will defend Tammy with
anything. And I think Joe Walsh is an absolute travesty to our country.
I`m appalled by him. This is a woman -- look, I went back to Iraq last
year. Vote Vets has got thousands of members. We raised millions of
dollars.

And when it came down to one of those decisive moments in my life,
there`s a few people I talked to about whether or not I should go back to
Iraq because I didn`t agree with the war. And you talk to General Clark.
You talk to Tammy Duckworth. And Patrick hit on this. Tammy Duckworth`s a
hero for what she`s done when she`s come home.

Who am I not to go back to Iraq when you have a woman who has no legs
who is willing to go back to Iraq?

SMERCONISH: Well said.

SOLTZ: She goes to drill every weekend, every weekend -- one weekend
a month, for her country.

And this is a woman, you know, who -- who -- my father died last year
when I was in Iraq, and I came home on leave and I wanted to talk to Tammy.
And I was feeling bad about myself. And Tammy came home from Iraq, she
lost her legs, and then her husband had a heart attack visiting her and
passed away.

And she`s always a woman that I look at when I want to figure out how
do -- how am I to become a better military office? How do I find strength
in my life?

And for him to attack this, it`s just -- it`s so below anything that`s
within reason. It`s ridiculous, because it`s what she`s done because of
her tragedy. I don`t know what he wants her to do to not talk about being
a veteran. She doesn`t talk about it. Does he want her to reattach her
legs? She can`t do that. They`re on some field somewhere near Taji.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Soltz, thank you for your service.

Patrick Murphy, thank you for your service.

Happy fourth, gentlemen. We appreciate your being here.

MURPHY: Thank you.

SOLTZ: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Up next: Mitt Romney takes another hit for putting his
dog on the roof of the car. That`s next in the "Sideshow."

And, remember, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell
Smerconish.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL and now for the "Sideshow."

First off, Seamus lives on. That`s right. No one`s forgotten the
true tale of Mitt Romney`s dog, who endured a lengthy family road trip in a
kennel on the roof of the car. An environmental advocacy group put out
this new ad pushing for new EPA gas mileage standards with a nod to the all
-- all -- well, to all the Seamuses who are out there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It`s a beautiful day, so if you`re headed out of
town, it`s time to get moving.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, boys, last call for the bathroom. We`re not
stopping until we need gas.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: America`s proposed new fuel efficiency standards
will double gas mileage, and that means half the stops for gas,half the
stops for gas, half the stops for gas. Call the EPA to support the
proposed new standards.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Here, boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Subtle? Not so much. The dad, by the way, even looks a
bit like Romney.

Next, Wendy Long, the Republican Senate candidate in New York, has
been blasting Democrats for legislation by the Obama administration
requiring employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees.
No doubt it`s a heated issue on both sides, but Long has given it a new
twist. The folks at The Huffington Post got their hands on this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY LONG (R), NEW YORK SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Even those who have
died in Afghanistan and Iraq, I want to listen to their voices, because I
think they`re saying something to us. They`re asking us to fight for the
things that they died for. And, you know, they didn`t die for what Kirsten
Gillibrand is saying, for the right to force religious employers to pay for
their employees` contraception. They didn`t give their lives for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: OK, earth To Wendy. No one is saying that the troops are
overseas fighting for contraception coverage at home. Really, nobody.

Long is set to face off against Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand in the
upcoming election.

Finally, how to declare President Obama unpatriotic in three easy
steps, courtesy of the right. It all started with a "Hollywood Reporter"
piece last week saying -- quote -- "The continental branch of the Obama
fund-raising effort will kick off next week in Paris with an Independence
Day celebration."

So some wealthy donors plan to get together and raise money for Obama.
Fine. Well, cue the right step one, courtesy of Breitbart.com -- quote --
"Apparently, tiring of U.S. soil as a source of campaign dollars, the Obama
campaign is headed overseas with its celebrity friends in tow. The
European Obama campaign starts next week in Paris on July 4. Now, that`s a
flag-waving campaign."

You got it? Suddenly, this was the latest campaign strategy from team
Obama. Step two, "The National Review" blasts out this headline with a
link to the Breitbart piece -- quote -- "Final jeopardy. Category is
Obama. The answer is fund-raising in Paris."

And then step three, Karl Rove tweets: "Final jeopardy, how will Obama
be spending American Independence Day this week?"

You get it. Now the president himself is going to Paris for this
bash. Well, reality check. The president is actually spending tomorrow at
a White House picnic with military families, as planned all along.

Andrew McCarthy, the "National Review" reporter, corrected his error
via Twitter, sort of -- quote -- "LOL, lots of luck, OK, OK. I see story
says Obama campaign not, necessarily Obama, will be fund-raising in Paris
on July 4. I didn`t realize there was a difference."

So it wasn`t all a ruse to make the president seem unpatriotic leading
into the Fourth of July? I`m not buying it.

Up next: freak storms, wildfires, record high temperatures. How long
will Republicans keep calling global warming a hoax? You`re watching
HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
your "Market Wrap."

Stocks ended a shortened trading session solidly higher. The Dow
gained 72, the S&P is now up eight and the Nasdaq added 25. U.S. auto
sales were stronger than expected in June. GM sales were up 16 percent.
Ford`s rose 7 percent. Chrysler`s soared 20 percent.

On the economic front, factory orders came in ahead of forecasts in
May, a welcome sign for the manufacturing sector, and gas prices are down
for a 13th straight week to 30 -- to, rather, $3.64 a gallon, according to
the EIA -- now back to HARDBALL.

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Most of you across the country don`t need a thermometer to know
temperatures are sweltering. Just this past week, more than 2,000 records
were met or exceeded, last month, more than 3,200 records broken. And it`s
not just heat. Wildfires have rMD-BO_engulfed parts of Colorado and
Tropical Storm Debby, dumping incredible amounts of rain on the Southeast,
broke a record for being the earliest ever fourth storm of the season.

With weather patterns like this, it`s hard to deny the science of
global warming. Can Republicans continue to argue that it`s a hoax?

Ron Reagan is the author of "My Father at 100," as well as an MSNBC
political analyst. And Erin McPike is a reporter for RealClearPolitics.

Welcome to both of you.

There`s a poll that I want to show you which is -- which is really
strange, in light of what is going on, if we can put that up. It`s
conducted by "The Washington Post" and Stanford University, and it showed a
figure that might be surprising to some, the number of Americans who say
global warming or climate change is the top environmental problem worldwide
decreasing compared to five years ago, while the number who say air and
water pollution is on the top concern is now on the rise.

However, Americans overwhelmingly believe the government needs to curb
the greenhouse gases American businesses put out; 77 percent say there
should be government limits, to just 20 percent who disagree.

Erin, what`s going on with this data? Because anybody with a window
can see we`re living in crazy times and yet the data suggests that it`s not
the concern level where it had been just a couple of years ago.

ERIN MCPIKE, REALCLEARPOLITICS: That data is very surprising, and
it`s surprising in light of what we saw in 2009, when the House passed cap
and trade legislation and then the Senate didn`t even take it up. Harry
Reid said at the time I think it will be easier for us to pass health care
than it will be to pass climate change legislature, even given though that
so many Americans believe that global warming is a problem.

And you have seen the numbers on health care recently. They`re more
divided about that. But I would point out to this. There were eight House
Republicans that voted in favor of that climate change legislation, but
they faced a lot of trouble in their districts and within the Republican
Party.

You remember Mike Castle, who was in the House at the time.

SMERCONISH: Absolutely.

MCPIKE: And then he was running in a Senate primary against Christine
O`Donnell, who was fueled by the Tea Party, and his friends, the night of
his loss to her in that primary, thought that his vote on that piece of
legislation is what did him a lot of damage.

And I will add this to it. I took a road trip throughout the country
in the fall of 2010 for the midterms, and I heard a lot from voters
throughout the Midwest and the Rust Belt that they were very unhappy about
cap and trade legislation, even more so than the push on health care.

SMERCONISH: Ron Reagan, when I say anyone with a window can see
what`s going on, am I conflating weather with climate change, because
they`re not one and the same?

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, they`re not one in the same.

Yes, you are conflating it a little bit, but it is true that we are
going to see -- likely see more of these heat waves emerging over the next
-- over the next years as global warming increases. Any single weather
event, though, you can`t pin on global warming. Climate and weather are
two different things. Climate is global, hemispheric. Weather is, of
course, local.

I`m not as surprised as you, Michael and perhaps Erin, that the public
doesn`t seem as concerned as they used to be about global warming. You
know, politicians don`t want to do anything about this, because that would
be very difficult and the people who sponsor them are often from the
extraction industries, of course, don`t want them to do anything about it.

And the media itself is usually reluctant to cover this, give it the
coverage it deserves, because it`s science, because politicians aren`t
doing anything about that. And so, the public looks at this and they say,
gee, we`re not seeing it on TV, and politicians don`t seem to be doing
anything about it. I guess it`s not as serious as we thought. This is, of
course, a recipe for disaster -- a recipe for doing nothing about a very
serious problem.

SMERCONISH: Let`s talk about the politics of it. In 2010, Mitt
Romney wrote in his book "No Apology`, quote, "I believe that climate
change is occurring, the reduction in the size of global icecaps is hard to
ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I`m
uncertain how much of the warming however is attributable to factors out of
our control."

Now, last fall, fall of last year, his position had apparently
evolved. He no longer knew, it seemed, what caused global warming. Let`s
watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view is that we don`t
know what`s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of
spending trillions and trillions of dollars to reduce CO2 emissions is not
the right course for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Erin, I don`t see this being an issue for 2012, a major
issue, particularly in light of what`s going on with the economy.

How do you see the politics of it playing out in the next couple of
months?

ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, a couple of things. Look at
what happened in this Republican primary. There were three very prominent
Republicans, not just Mitt Romney, but also Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee
-- who was looking at a presidential race -- who all changed their
positions on this.

Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney both as governors supported a regional
system of cap and trade, and then they backed off of it. Tim Pawlenty, in
fact, apologized for it on one of those debates.

And also, Mike Huckabee said in 2007 that he supported cap and trade
legislation. In 2009, he changed that view.

So, obviously, there was a big shift within the Republican Party.

And if you look at the Web sites for both Barack Obama and Mitt
Romney, and look at the energy tabs. For President Obama, it says energy
and the environment. For Mitt Romney, it just says energy, and there`s a
very different pathway they both take on this.

SMERCONISH: Ron, is it a cause in search of a champion with -- Vice
President Al Gore not the dominant player he had been on a national stage,
it seems there`s no one with heft to marshal this effort.

REAGAN: That`s certainly true in Washington. Yes, it`s looking for
a champion in Washington. There are champions of course, Bill McKevin (ph)
and various other people, Jim Hansen, outside of Washington, who are
pressing to do something about this.

But no, the politicians don`t see anything in it for them and when
you see public interest begin to wane, then they`re going to be even less
interested in doing anything about this. And again, the problem will
increase.

You know, the atmosphere, the planet doesn`t care whether we`re
interested or not. The atmosphere is going to warm one way or the other if
we keep pumping heat trapping gases into it. It doesn`t care about the
politics of this. The laws of nature and physics don`t care.

SMERCONISH: Thank you to Ron Reagan. Thank you, Erin McPike, as
well.

Up next, remember that 13-year-old kid who wowed conservatives at the
CPAC a couple of years ago?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KROHN, AUTHOR, "DEFINING CONSERVATISM": Conservatism is not
an ideology of feelings, romanticism, as some people like to say. It is an
ideology of protecting the people and the people`s rights.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Jonathan Krohn is 17 now and he`s here to tell us why
he`s not a conservative anymore.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: President Obama hits the road later this week for a bus
tour his campaign is calling "Betting on America." The president will
start Thursday in Maumee, Ohio, just outside of Toledo and make two more
stops in the Buckeye State in Sandusky and Cleveland suburb of Parma. On
Friday, he`ll wrap up the tour in Pittsburgh.

Ohio is a real battleground and Pennsylvania`s a state the president
must carry if he hopes to win re-election.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KROHN: Define conservatism, as I believe it is fit, upon four
categories or principles. Respect for the Constitution, respect for life,
less government and personal responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: We`re back.

That was then 13-year-old right wing wonder kid, Jonathan Krohn, at
the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference where he was granted a
speaking slot and a standing occasion. He published a book "Defining
Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back" the
following year. And party leaders like Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett
offered blurbs of praise for the jacket. He was even named a finalist to
the "Time" 100 list of influential leaders.

But it`s another year older, wiser, as the saying goes -- and Krohn,
now 17, says he`s outgrown the conservative label.

And he joins me now.

Hey, Jonathan. What always impressed me about your speech was not so
much the content as it was the delivery. And it seems to me you had such
command and delivered those remarks without notes. Am I right?

KROHN: That`s correct. I have never written a speech before. All
the speeches I`ve done have been -- have been in impromptu. It`s funny
because a lot of people seem to think they have these ideas that my parents
wrote it for me or something, but I`ve never, ever had any notes for any
speech I`ve ever given.

SMERCONISH: Has there been some kind of an event -- life-changing
event in the last couple of years? Any sequence of events that caused a
change in your political thinking?

KROHN: I wouldn`t say really any events. I think that it`s a number
of factors. Not such events, I`d say. Like after I`ve gone -- after I
finished the second book, I wanted to talk a lot of time focus on other
things. So, I got -- I sort of getting into philosophy and started reading
a lot of philosophy which I`ve said talked about this before.

And I really think that it was getting into something else, to take a
breather, you know, and try to stimulate my mind in other ways. Let myself
think about what it is I really believe and really think about what I wrote
that led me to that. That`s a large part of it.

SMERCONISH: We live in interesting times. A lot of hot button
issues, Obamacare, gay marriage -- run down a couple of them and give me
the cliff notes version of where you stand today.

KROHN: Well, I am in favor of Obamacare -- I mean, of Obamacare and
gay marriage, and I am pro-choice now. You know, it was social
conservatism that was really the first thing to go. Because I did a lot of
conferences, you know, like CPAC and social conservative things and stuff
like that.

And I went to a lot of those and there were a lot of people that were
in this restrictive bubble and social conservative was probably the most
restrictive part of that, because it`s very much a very fundamentalist,
strong evangelical core that you have there. And if you stray from that,
those people -- lot of the people in that area of conservatism have -- have
it -- have a problem with that. If you just -- if you reach out a little
bit and don`t agree with them on one issue, they`re very restrictive. It`s
one of the most strongest and one of the most angry, I guess you could say,
ideological aspects.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: What kind of blowback have you received from
conservatives since -- coming forward?

KROHN: A lot. Yes. A lot. Actually, I was in the greenroom. I
saw a tweet that said somebody -- talking about me on FOX. So I switched
to FOX. And they had a whole panel of people on their FOX 5 show talking
about how I duped everybody and I didn`t really believe it. It was joke
and I was trying to scheme.

I wasn`t trying to scheme everybody. I changed my mind!

So, they started making fun of me. I think one of the guys said if
it was up to him, he would have left me in the woods as a baby. And I had
-- on "The Daily Caller", they have written three articles about me all of
which called me names I can`t repeat on television in 5:00 in the
afternoon.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: I think the reality is that most of us adopt the party
initially, maybe the ideology as well of our parents. And then the further
you go in life, the more time you have to sort things out.

KROHN: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Were your politics a couple of years ago do you think a
reflection of what you were hearing at home?

KROHN: I don`t think it was much what I was hearing at home. My
parents have never been politically active. It`s really what I heard on
the radio, you know? I live in Georgia and the media here especially like
WSB, which is the best radio station in Atlanta --

SMERCONISH: All conservative talk.

KROHN: It`s a huge station. And -- yes, all conservative talk
radio. That`s what I was inundated with. That`s where I got a lot of that
from.

SMERCONISH: So, next for you, NYU, am I right?

KROHN: That`s correct. I will study philosophy and I`m going to
keep doing film writing. I`m doing my first screenplay now. So, I`m
finishing that. I`m hoping that -- you know, that will go well.
Obviously, it`s very hard to get funding for that. So, that`s something
I`m working on. There`s a lot of things.

SMERCONISH: If my math -- if my math is -- if my math is correct you
will not be 18 in time for the election. So, you will not get to cast
ballot.

KROHN: I won`t.

SMERCONSH: It sounds to me like --

KROHN: I`ll still be 17.

SMERCONISH: I think I know which way you would be voting if you
could exercise the franchise in this election.

KROHN: Absolutely. Yes. I would be voting for President Obama,
especially over Mitt Romney. I just don`t think Mitt Romney is right for
this country right now.

SMERCONISH: It sounds to me like you still have politics coursing
through your veins as you go off to write screenplays at NYU.

KROHN: Let`s -- I try to stay out of politics as much as possible,
you know? Because I have -- I`ve bad some experiences. I really don`t
want to try to label myself into either camp. I want to try to just stay
myself.

SMERCONISH: Understood.

Thank you for being here, Jonathon Krohn.

When we return, let me finish with what makes America great and what
doesn`t.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this:

Tomorrow, of course, is the Fourth of July. Many of us will
celebrate living in the greatest country on Earth. We take that as a
given. But is it?

Last night, after guest-hosting for Chris I went home and I watched
the latest episode of the new Aaron Sorkin television program. It`s called
"The Newsroom." And it airs on HBO on Sunday nights.

It`s pretty interesting for me last night to leave a cable newsroom
and then go watch this adaptation of one. The central character is Will
McAvoy. He`s played by Jeff Daniels. He`s anchor with an attitude.

In the first episode, he unloads in front of a college audience and
is very critical of the United States. He says we`re not the greatest in
the world. He says we lead in just a couple of areas like our
incarceration rate, religious beliefs, and defense spending. He says we
act like we are the only country with freedom but he says that there are
207 countries and 180 of them have freedom. And then he rattles off
statistics where we lag behind.

And then finally in impassioned speech he says that we used to be
great. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF DANIELS, ACTOR (as Will McAvoy): We stood up for what was
right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for
moral reasons.

We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared
about our neighbors and we put our money where our mouths were and we never
beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological
advances, explored the university, cured diseases and we cultivated the
world`s greatest artists and the world`s greatest economy.

First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.
America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: The show is fiction, but it makes you think and I
disagree with him. We`ve got lots of room for improvement to be sure. But
I`d argue the country is still great and has only exhibited weakness
recently as a result of ceding leadership to its fringes which has yielded
partisan gridlock and malaise. You pick the issues. That which ails is
solvable, with the best we have to offer, we`re together for the common
good.

But America loses her advantage when compromise becomes a dirty word,
when shouting is valued over dialogue, and when reasonable minds surrender
the stage to charlatans. When Americans focus on that which unites us, we
are unstoppable.

Happy birthday, America.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you 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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