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updated 9/4/2012 12:09:46 PM ET 2012-09-04T16:09:46

HARDBALL
August 31, 2012

Guests: Willie Brown, John Nichols, Steve McMahon, John Feehery, David Corn, Dick Armey

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Good-bye, Tampa, hello, Charlotte.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews back in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. Does truth win out? Really? If one side
of a fight puts out something misleading or downright dishonest, who you
going to call? Who`s going to come in, umpire the thing and really set it
right?

Well, the right here in the fight here is the challenge of this
election, separating discernible fact from partisan fiction on Medicare,
welfare, national debt, a plant closing. Who you going to call when lying
fills the air? And what are you going to do when one side doesn`t care
what someone says? They`re going to keep saying what gets votes.

Let`s get to it with Mayor Willie Brown and "The Nation" magazine`s
John Nichols.

I want to start with John, as a journalist, this whole question. If
there`s something discernible, for example -- well, let`s take a look at
the main -- I think one of the main distortions. The Republicans haven`t
let facts get in the way of their rhetoric so far this week.

But perhaps the biggest distortion was a big picture, when it came
last night in Mitt Romney`s speech talking about the promise of President
Obama back in 2009, as if he and the rest of the Republicans tried their
best to work with the president after the election.

Let`s watch this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four years
ago, I know that many Americans felt the fresh excitement about the
possibilities of a new president. That choice was not the choice of our
party, but Americans always come together after elections. We`re a good
and generous people and we`re united by so much more than what divides us.
I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed!
But his promises gave way to disappointment and division.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, today in its lead editorial, "The New York Times"
called the notion that Republicans rallied behind President Obama, quote,
"an extraordinary reinvention of history." Quote, "The truth rarely heard
this week in Tampa is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and
obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him
a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter what the cost to
the economy or to American security."

That`s something, by the way, that Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell basically admitted. Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You said, quote, "The single most
important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term
president." So how do you respond to those Democratic lines of attack?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, that is true.
That`s my single most important political goal, along with every active
Republican in the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In all the detail, all the issues we have about last night,
a lot of journalists have it, with what was said in this convention,
especially by Paul Ryan in his vice presidential acceptance speech, Mayor,
was this claim that they were with Obama from the beginning, they were
rooting for this guy from the sidelines, hoping to cooperate rate with him.

And yet we know that Romney was running for president again from the
very day he lost last time. It`s now on the record he wasn`t rooting for
him. He was looking for an opening. And Mitch McConnell, the legislative
leader, was saying, I`m going to stop this guy in his tracks so he doesn`t
have one trophy to show the voter in four years.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FMR. SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR: Chris, you`re asking me.
I believe that that`s exactly what the Republican goal was. I believe that
they met and conspired for that purpose, and they executed it.

There wasn`t one occasion when the interests of the country and this
nation superseded partisan barring of Mr. Obama`s reelection campaign. And
it`s a tragedy because what Mr. Romney said is true. When an election is
over, we do come together, supposedly. This is not what was done with
reference to Mr. Obama`s first term as president.

MATTHEWS: What do you make -- we got a little report here because I
didn`t even know about this, or I`d forgotten this. Paul Ryan was one of
15 Republicans personally who met the night of the inauguration, when we
were all out there on that lawn covering that big event.

Robert Draper writes in his book, "Do Not Ask What Good We Do" --
that`s the name of the book. "Republican lawmakers and strategists were
plotting from the night of Obama`s inauguration to make the president
fail." The reporter reports that at a dinner that night, which included
Republicans like Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and vice presidential nominee
Paul Ryan, as well as Newt Gingrich, came up with a plan. And here it is.

"The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost
giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward: Go after Geithner
... show united and unyielding opposition to the president`s economic
policies ... begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves ... win
the spear point of the House in 2010, jab Obama relentlessly in 2011, win
the White House and the Senate in 2012."

John Nichols of "The Nation," this was a meeting, a conspiracy meeting
held in private to destroy the Obama presidency. Now these people come out
with crocodile tears about the failures, where they are, of this
administration, claiming, Oh, they were in there rooting for him.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": Yes, I had no idea that Mitt Romney was
so enthusiastic about the Obama campaign. I mean, he actually had
paragraph after paragraph in his speech about all the hope and the
possibility there and -- and he...

MATTHEWS: He also said he hoped he succeeded as president.

NICHOLS: (INAUDIBLE) he was suggesting -- he`s kind of painting
himself as one of these folks who just arrived at the convention. You
know, I was with Obama last time, but now I`ve really seen (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Well, what -- what are we -- what are we to make of the
claim of altruism here, that they were -- I mean, here`s a guy who was
running for president the minute he lost last time, hoping Obama would fail
-- and by the way, publicly hoping, so going out and revving his troops up,
raising money, doing the whole thing.

NICHOLS: Something else. When Barack Obama decided he was going to
go for it, in a very tough moment, to save the domestic auto industry, what
did the son of the former head of American Motors write in "The New York
Times"? Obama`s wrong. "Let Detroit go bankrupt." This was a guy who was
using his greatest name recognition strength to try and take President
Obama down.

MATTHEWS: OK...

NICHOLS: That was in April of...

MATTHEWS: Gentlemen, let`s watch some of the facts from last night,
then we`re going to try to take the onion skin off of some of this. On
Wednesday night, Paul Ryan was criticized for a massive number of
distortions in his speech. Some of them revised history, leaving out the
inconvenient fact that the Republican Party spent the past three-and-a-half
years refusing any opportunity to compromise with President Obama.

Anyway, for example, Ryan put the blame for the country`s credit
downgrade squarely on the shoulders of President Obama. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It began with a
perfect triple-A credit rating for the United States. It ends with a
downgraded America!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The reason the country`s debt rating was downgraded, as
everyone who watches this program and others on (INAUDIBLE) and read the
newspapers know, is it had a lot to do with the Republican Congress playing
a very dangerous game of chicken over the debt ceiling, refusing to
compromise.

Here is what he said about the Simpson-Bowles debt commission. This
is again Paul Ryan skating around the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back
with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then
did exactly nothing!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "They," "they," "the commission" -- he was on the
commission! The fact he leaves out is he actually sat on the commission --
Paul Ryan, that guy there -- and voted against his final urgent report and
many believed helped bring it all down, despite some good people like Dick
Durbin voting for it, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Mayor, here`s a guy that`s able to go before the national audience,
sort of debuting himself, and presents himself as someone who isn`t at all
responsible for the failure of Simpson-Bowles as a compromise, blasting the
president, ignoring the fact that he voted against it.

BROWN: Well, Chris, first and foremost, he`s speaking only to his
devoted collection of people who cast votes and ballots on behalf of what
he believes. He`s not speaking to the total American people. That`s why
he thinks he can get away with all of the misrepresentations.

In addition there, too, it`s not unusual for the public to forgive
those of us who are in politics and we lie. Let`s just hope the public can
see through everything Mr. Ryan said. It is clear he is not going to tell
the truth in this campaign because if he tells the truth in this campaign,
it will be inconsistent with the best interests of the people in this
country, and he will be rejected. He`s running to try to fool them, and
he`s going to say whatever it takes to fool them.

MATTHEWS: I accept that. That`s a pretty cynical, tough remark by
the mayor who knows his politics (INAUDIBLE)

NICHOLS: This guy`s been around, yes.

MATTHEWS: But let me ask you this. Here`s a guy who portrays himself
as a Boy Scout, who is Mr. Clean, sterling reputation for having guts to do
things, although maybe not deserved. But here he is being lambasted across
the spectrum the last couple days over facts. Does he lose his merit
badges? Can he still be Mr. Clean and a guy who`s know to not tell the
truth?

I`m not going to call him "lyin` Ryan." Somebody`s going to do that.
Somebody`s going to come up with a nasty phrase for the guy. But so far,
there`s a conflict here between the reality and the pretense.

NICHOLS: Well, this is a big deal. I`ve covered Paul Ryan for 15
years. I covered him in his initial campaign in `98. Been around the guy.
I was shocked that he went there. I could not...

MATTHEWS: You thought he`d come on for what he was.

NICHOLS: I thought he would give (ph) a lot more of what he was. And
you know who else was shocked was my mom. My mom lives in his district. I
was talking to her on Thursday. She said, I can`t believe Paul Ryan...

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the real heart of this thing, the one that
everybody can understand, the plant closing of the GM plant right there in
his district, that he said was the fault of Obama, when the plant was
declared closed, stopped making cars before Obama ever got to Washington as
president.

NICHOLS: I got a letter today that was signed -- written June 3rd,
2008, seven, eight months before Obama came into office. And it talked
about the closing, the planned closing, all the steps on closing the GM
plant. It was signed by Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan was well aware that that
plant was in the process of closing while President Bush was in charge.

MATTHEWS: But he didn`t have to bring up that plant closing. Why did
he single out a dishonest opportunity?

NICHOLS: It was madness because there`s another plant in the district
that did close when Obama was president. I think that they were so
desperate for that applause line of, I`ve had, you know, buddies that I
went to high school -- I think that was about trying to make him seem less
like the rich kid, more like the working class kid from Janesville, and he
was concerned about his buddies that lost their jobs.

But boy, what cost? Because people around this country were
introduced to Paul Ryan as a guy who would deceive them about his own
hometown.

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

BROWN: And let me tell you about when you are identified as a liar.
If you`re identified as a person not capable of telling the truth, not
trusted, and you`re running for public office, that stench stays with you.
You can`t spend your way out of that image, period. You`re toxic and
you`ll stay toxic on that issue.

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, one of the most popular lines repeated over and
over in the convention over -- in the convention we just came from down in
Tampa was the fabrication of what President Obama said, making it seem like
the president was implying that business owners didn`t deserve credit for
building their businesses. Let`s watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIR The president said, If you`ve got a
business, you didn`t build that!

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He can`t fix the
economy because he doesn`t know how it was built!

RYAN: It sure doesn`t help to hear from their president that
government gets the credit! What they deserve to hear is the truth! Yes,
you did build that!

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We build planes. We build
cars.

PRIEBUS: Do build it, right?

BOEHNER: No government there to hold your hand!

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: Mitt Romney was not handed success.
He built it!

BOEHNER: If a guy walked into a bar and heard that story, and he
said, Well, if you`ve got a business, you didn`t build that, well, you know
what we`d do with him, don`t you? We`d throw him out!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I still don`t get that one. I don`t get it. Anyway, over
the top, under the table, whatever. Out of the bar, you`re bums.

This thing about "You didn`t build it" -- the president may not have
been the most artful in that statement, but he did say in his statement
that they`re all jumping on, praising the initiative of the people who run
the businesses and start them. He said it!

NICHOLS: It was actually in a speech about small business...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

NICHOLS: ... about how we relate government to small business.

MATTHEWS: Oh!

NICHOLS: But the weird thing was -- at the -- you may not have walked
the hallways at the convention as much as I did, Chris. I went into the
Romney store, right? There was a Romney-Ryan store. Before the speeches
were given, they had T-shirts, and some of the lines you heard there were
already on the backs of T-shirts.

MATTHEWS: You know...

NICHOLS: It was part of the marketing.

MATTHEWS: You know how the rumors get spread around the Middle East,
for example, the sort of pseudo-religious stuff that`s spread around and
just -- there`s no basis...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m beginning to think that we`re getting there. We just
make up stuff. Fact checking doesn`t mean anything. They mock fact check
-- Oh, that`s science!

NICHOLS: Oh, yes, and they`re-

MATTHEWS: That`s fact checking.

MATTHEWS: They`re furious at Politifact for correcting...

MATTHEWS: Oh, you must be wrong because you`re telling us we`re
wrong. Anyway, thank you, Mayor Brown. Tough talk.

BROWN: All right. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Tough analysis. Thanks so much. Have a nice Labor Day,
sir. And John Nichols, you, too.

Coming up: Now it`s President Obama`s turn with his convention. How
does he combat those distortions? How does he, well, answer the biggest
question, Are you better off than you were four year ago? We`re going to
ask the HARDBALL "Strategists" how they both sides handle this.

Also, it`s the biggest thing on Twitter right now and just about
everywhere, poor Clint Eastwood. As a long-time Eastwood fan, I must say
I`m asking myself, what was the Romney campaign thinking in booking this
guy in the one hour they had to sell the country.

Plus, Democrats win a court battle over voter suppression, Finally.
A federal judge stops Ohio Republicans from stopping in-person voting on
the last weekend before election day. Progress there in Texas, now in
Ohio. Let`s hope Pennsylvania makes the right decision.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with the biggest distortion of this week,
that the Republicans wanted President Obama to succeed.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, the Obama campaign earned a big victory today when a
federal judge in Ohio, as I said, restored early voting for everyone in the
three days leading up to the election. The judge blocked the state law
pushed through by Republicans that would cut off early voting during those
days except for overseas and military voters. Well, Democrats argued the
law would unfairly disenfranchise minority voters, who traditionally vote
the Sunday before election day, and argued the early voting rights should
be applied to everyone.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with more on that "fiction as truth" strategy of
the Romney campaign. What happens when the media loses its credibility as
an honest broker and the persistent retelling of fiction in an election
becomes, in the minds of many, fact?

That just may be a page out of the Romney playbook. We don`t know,
but according to his pollster, Neil Neilhouse -- Newhouse (ph), rather, who
told convention goers earlier this week -- here`s what he said. "Fact
checkers come to this with their own set of thoughts and beliefs. And you
know what? We`re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact
checkers."

Well, with me now are the HARDBALL "Strategists," Steve McMahon for
Democrats, and on the Republican side, John Feehery.

John, that was a hell of a statement, you know, because fact checkers
sort of do this for a living. And they check facts and they`re generally
reliable. For the Republicans to say, We don`t need no badges, like in the
movie, We don`t need no stinkin` badges, we don`t need to be truthful,
we`re just going to make our points, you guys live (ph) with (ph) them (ph)
-- what do you make of that charge? What do you think of that statement?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Listen, I think -- I think
that...

MATTHEWS: That statement.

FEEHERY: ... you cannot be -- your campaign has to -- you have to run
your campaign. You can`t dictate by what someone -- Glenn Kessler says in
"The Washington Post" -- or Bill Adair (ph) says in Politifact. And I like
both those guys. The fact of the matter is, you have to say the facts as
you believe them to be.

And I will say that I remember when Joe Wilson...

MATTHEWS: Well, do you...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: I remember when Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar,
and I condemned him for it. And I think that you have to be very careful
in calling Paul Ryan, who said the truth -- his speech is accurate all the
way down the line (INAUDIBLE) calling him a liar really degrades the
political...

MATTHEWS: I think that`s...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it is going to get there because of the fact that
there`s so -- such an enumeration of these. But I want to ask -- I`m not
going to be the one to call him that. But I think that the question I have
with him is why the guy with a clean record go out before a national
convention, introducing himself with our -- let`s put it this way, hard to
argue statements like this one. Talk about deceptive language in the media
outlets -- he says that that plant, that GM plant in his district, closed
on Obama`s watch.

That was the clear implication of that charge he made at the
convention. And now it turns out that it closed on George W. Bush`s watch.

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.

MATTHEWS: Now, I don`t know how you can say, Well, that`s just how he
sees it.

MCMAHON: No, that -- and by the way, not only did it close on George
Bush`s watch, Paul Ryan knew that. In fact, it was on a list to be closed
in June of 2008, before President Obama ever even visited there, and then
it closed, in fact, before President Obama took office. So...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Hold on. Hold on one second.

FEEHERY: Let`s get the facts!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s what we`re doing, John.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: You said the facts were a matter of interpretation. You
have to run your campaign based on the facts as you believe them. But when
there`s a date of a plant closure, there`s a date of a plant announcement,
and it`s in your state, the expectation is that you would be aware of it,
particularly after...

FEEHERY: Here -- here...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Here are the facts.

MCMAHON: ... you complained about it after you occurred.

FEEHERY: Here are the facts. Here are the facts.

Barack Obama came to Janesville. That`s a fact. He said that his
economic policies would reopen that plant. That`s a fact.

MATTHEWS: Reopen?

FEEHERY: That`s what he said. And then -- and then the third fact
is, the plant is still closed. The economic policies of the president have
not worked. And that`s why...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I never heard reopened. I thought he said he would save
it.

FEEHERY: Well, he said those jobs would come back. He said that it
would be a reopened.

And the fact of the matter is, that plant is still closed. And that
is a big fact.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But when did the plant closed?

FEEHERY: It doesn`t matter.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I`m asking, when did it close?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did it close before or after he came into office?

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: It closed in October of 2008.

MCMAHON: Did Barack Obama have any ability to stop the closing of
that plant?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to get to something about you and your notion of
relative truth.

If I say to you -- I will play Democrat -- Tokyo`s the capital of
Japan, right? Is there another point of view on that one?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, is there another -- is there a Paul Ryan view of, no, I
have got another capital of Japan I want to call you on, because it`s all
how I see it. I see it this way. Osaka. Can he say that`s and that`s
just his point of view?

FEEHERY: No, of course not.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you say of course not. Well, how about when he says
it died on Obama`s watch, and we know it died in September 2008?

FEEHERY: The fact of the matter is, is that Obama did go to that
plant. He did promise...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go off of this thing.

The debt ceiling -- I very much -- I have talked about that a member
of my family worked for the debt commission. I think, although the
president didn`t back it, I look in retrospect and say he should have done
it. OK, I may have been wrong. A lot of people were wrong.

I think we are all wrong. Somebody should have gone to the center and
say, I`m going to the center and I will beat you there. Ryan said that
basically about the president Wednesday night. I thought it was a tough
charge. He never pointed out useful information. He was on the debt
ceiling commission and he voted against it. Why didn`t he bring that out?

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: It was the president`s debt commission. And the president
is the leader. He`s the president.

And one thing about Paul Ryan, he passed a budget twice. He actually
did what he had to do. He stand up -- stepped up to his responsibilities
as budget chairman and got a budget passed twice. The president walked
away from the debt commission and has never...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How about if a ship sank and two people left the ship
before it sank, and one blamed the other for leaving the ship before it
sank and never mentioned, oh, I also left the ship before it sank? Just a
thought. It`s useful information.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Let`s talk for a second about the two budgets that Paul Ryan
passed. They had the very same Medicare cuts that Paul Ryan now criticizes
the president for. And while they talk about balancing the budget, which
sounds really good, and it got a lot of applause at the Republican
Convention last night...

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Hold on for a second, John. They have got a $4.3 billion
tax cut that`s not paid for. Neither is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at some of -- let`s Ryan speak for
himself.

Here he is talking about the failure of President Obama to support
Simpson-Bowles and his deficit reduction effort. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He created a new
bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He
thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And what did Ryan do?

MCMAHON: Nothing.

FEEHERY: He passed his own budget. He passed his budget twice.

MATTHEWS: No, what did he do with Simpson-Bowles?

FEEHERY: He voted against it because he didn`t like the fact that
there was no entitlement reforms in it.

MATTHEWS: OK.

FEEHERY: But the fact of the matter is when it comes to the Medicare
charge, yes, they had the same numbers, but they were different types of
cuts and what Obama has done.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did he ever point that out? He attacked him for cutting
$700 billion and never said he did the same.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: It`s in his record.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go beyond this, because it`s clear that Ryan`s got a
problem here and it`s going beyond this table and you, Feehery. You`re
doing a good job here and you always do a good job here.

And I flacked. I know what flacking is. That`s flacking.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: But here we go.

The DNC next week, let`s talk about it. I want you to try to play
Democrat -- play Republican here -- play Democrat here.

MCMAHON: OK.

MATTHEWS: You first, then him.

MCMAHON: OK.

MATTHEWS: You`re a pro at it. How does the president address the
serious question last week are you better off than you were four years ago?
Just -- that`s a tough charge. And it`s a legitimate charge. And Reagan
did it well. He beat Carter with it.

MCMAHON: So, I think he`s got to do a few things.

The first is, he`s got to remind people of what he inherited when he
walked in the door. Second, I think he`s got to acknowledge it`s been more
difficult, it`s taken longer and been a harder road than he thought it
would be and he knows you are disappointed, because he`s disappointed too.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Would you like that? Would that work? Would it be
all right to say, look, I came in, I was in a ditch, I pulled the car out
of the ditch, it still isn`t running right, but we`re out of the ditch?

FEEHERY: Well, it`s a pretty good narrative.

I think it`s better than what he is going to do, which is attack
Republicans on Medicare.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: He is going to do that, too.

FEEHERY: That`s all he`s going to focus on.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... an effort in your convention to get the woman`s vote.
By the way, there`s my mother, there`s my daughter, my sister.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Very important. Very important, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

MCMAHON: Marco Rubio, who speaks Spanish...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He had every female member of his family. And there`s
nothing wrong with it.

FEEHERY: Yes, absolutely.

But the fact of the matter is what he can`t talk about is he can`t
talk about his record because it`s very unpopular.

MCMAHON: Yes, he can.

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: It`s very unpopular, and that`s why...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Feehery, you`re a good pro, you`re a good pro. And you
play well on a muddy track.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, John Feehery.

Thank you, Steve McMahon, who had it easy this week.

The "Sideshow"`s coming up with Jon Stewart`s take on the Republican
Convention. This will be brutal.

And on Monday this week coming up, the premiere of the MSNBC
documentary "Barack Obama: Making History." I worked hard on this. A lot
of people did here. You`re going to like it. That`s Monday night, Labor
Day, 10:00 Eastern, "Barack Obama: Making History."

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL and now to the "Sideshow."

Before the kickoff to the big speeches at the Republican Convention
last night, we watched a biographical video about Mitt Romney, covering
everything from watching his parents running for political office back in
the `60s and `70s to raising his own family years later.

Here`s "The Daily Show" with an alternative tee-up to Romney`s big
speech.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year, the American people face a choice
between a self-made businessman.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know how extraordinarily
difficult it is to build something from nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a radical collectivist who says things like:

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you got a business,
that -- you didn`t build that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this:

OBAMA: I was not born in this country and I am the leader of al
Qaeda.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the story of Mitt Romney, the human
being who built that.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Too close to the reality there.

Anyway, clearly, a nod to some of the less-than-factual statements we
heard in Paul Ryan`s speech the night before.

Now to the flubs you may have missed. You wouldn`t expect anyone,
especially a speaker at the Republican Convention, to call for more
government, right? OK, Marco Rubio, time for your close-up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: In the early years of this new
century, we lived in an uncertain time, but we did not allow fear to cause
us to abandon what made us special. We chose more government, instead of
more freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I remember that. I let it go by.

Anyway, a spokesman for the Florida senator confirmed that Rubio
intended to say more freedom, instead of more government.

Well, now to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. In a push for more rigid
anti-immigration laws, Brewer inadvertently endorsed President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: I know that if President Obama is
elected in November, which I hope that he is, he will be able to come
together with all of us and come up with a solution. And I believe he will
secure our borders and therefore we can resolve all those other issues as a
simple matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, that would be quite a shift in opinion after
this well-known tarmac moment between Governor Brewer there and President
Obama.

A spokesman stepped up in that case as well to clean up the mess.

Also -- look at that pointing finger there. Also, remember when
President Obama weighed in on how Mitt Romney`s business experience would
play into the responsibilities of being president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you`re the head of a
large private equity firm or hedge fund, your job is to make money. It`s
not to create jobs. That doesn`t necessarily make you qualified to think
about the economy as a whole, because, as president, my job is to think
about the workers. My job is to think about communities where jobs have
been outsourced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, you can`t lead the country as if you`re the CEO of a
big business.

Anyway, fresh from his big night at the Republican Convention, Romney
accidentally helped further the president`s argument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Paul Ryan and I understand
how the economy works. We understand how Washington works. We will reach
across the aisle and find good people who like us, want to make sure this
company deals with its challenges. We will get America on track again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "This company." See what I mean? They will help get this
company back on track.

Wrong business model, sir.

Up next, we might never know exactly what Clint Eastwood was thinking
last night at the Republican Convention, but the bigger question many are
asking were what were the Republican officials thinking who put him there
right up there in that most important hour of prime time? Well, that`s
ahead. A little fun coming up here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SEEMA MODY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Seema Mody with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

The Dow Jones industrial jumping 90 points, the S&P 500 up seven and
the Nasdaq climbing 18 points. Facebook hitting a new all-time low today.
Shares have plunged more than 50 percent since its debut. And consumer
sentiment jumping to a three-month high in August, Americans encouraged by
price discounts and low interest rates.

And U.S. factory orders saw their biggest gain in a year, up 2.8
percent in July.

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

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Until last night, these may have been the lines Clint Eastwood was
most well-known for. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Get up.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: Get off my lawn.

Go ahead, make my day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, at last night`s Republican Convention, Eastwood broke
new ground, unfortunately for him, in a performance timed to air in the
network prime time, just after 10:00 Eastern, leading right up to the
nominee, Mitt Romney, giving his speech.

Clint Eastwood added improve to his oeuvre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EASTWOOD: I have got Mr. Obama sitting here.

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD: What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can`t tell
him to do that. He can`t do that to himself. You`re crazy. You are
absolutely crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

EASTWOOD: All right. I will start it, you finish it.

Go ahead...

CROWD: Make my day!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

EASTWOOD: All right. Thank you. Thank you very much.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Time and place are everything, everything in this world.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, what was Romney campaign -- the campaign itself who
put him up there on the stage at time, after the Rubio speech, right before
the rousing introduction of the candidate, why did they put him up at that
moment?

Nia-Malika Henderson covers politics and can answer this question.
She`s with "The Washington Post." And David Corn is the Washington bureau
chief for "Mother Jones." And he can help answer that. He`s also a
political analyst for our show and author of, by the way, "Showdown."

Nia...

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": Yes.

MATTHEWS: Stuart Stevens is a very smart guy. He`s written novels
like "Malaria Dreams." He`s very aware of communications and what works
and what doesn`t. Did he know what the chair meant when they agreed to put
the chair up...

HENDERSON: No, they didn`t.

Apparently, Clint Eastwood, just before he was going in, asked the
convention organizers, hey, can I borrow a chair? People must have thought
that he was going to sit in it himself.

He didn`t.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: He talked to it, oddly and weirdly enough. It was like...

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: It was like bad performance art.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you as a young person.

I will get to you in a minute.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh. I didn`t like that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Did you at any point during it think, this is working, and
then think, no, it`s not working, or did you think it was a bust from the
beginning?

HENDERSON: I never -- I thought it was -- I thought it was weird from
beginning to end. I was uncomfortable and I was a little sad. Here is
Clint Eastwood, this American icon.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: David, when you watch the audience reactions among the
Republican faithful, the women even, older women, you wouldn`t think --
maybe a little prudish, but they were laughing at that somewhat off-color
stuff.

CORN: Well, they were.

I think the crowd in the forum, where I was, was sort of so jazzed by
the presence of Clint Eastwood that that just sort of carried them through
this performance.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: People watching at home who don`t really -- who don`t identify
with Republicans and don`t want to feel like...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re talking about the blogosphere, which jumped
him pretty hard.

CORN: No, not even the blogosphere.

I just think they felt like, hey, now we`re cool, we got hip. We got
Clint Eastwood, so we`re hip. And that sort of elevated them.

MATTHEWS: OK. Now, we have a Twitter star.

Minutes after Eastwood finished his 15-minute gig up there, a Twitter
star was born called Invisible Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: A new Twitter handle designated by an empty chair began
tweeting about the performance.

At last check, Invisible Obama -- we don`t know who this guy was or is
-- has more than 50,000 Twitter followers and a new trend was born,
Eastwooding. Twitter was flooded with pictures of empty car, even a LOGAN:
depiction of Clint and the chair and an empty car passenger`s seat.

Anyway, but the Obama campaign trumped them all, tweeting "This Seat`s
Taken." See that? There`s the president saying -- I was wondering whether
that was smart.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s smart to get in the ditch with this
stuff?

CORN: Well, I think in a light-handed way.

The bottom line here is that I think most Americans who don`t pay a
tremendous amount of attention to politics and might have been interested
in the final night maybe to see what this Mitt Romney guy is like...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... got the opening?

Ann Romney, she did a series of morning show interviews today and was
apparently -- we will watch now -- I`m going to learn this as you do --
inevitably asked about the timing and nature, in other words, place and
time, of Eastwood`s appearance.

Eastwood, as we said, was in network prime time, while a moving video
from her husband, the candidate, about him, was not. He made prime time.
The movie didn`t.

Let`s watch what Ann Romney thought of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you wish that video had aired in prime time, instead of
Clint Eastwood`s monologue?

(LAUGHTER)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: You know, I think it`s important that
people do see that side of Mitt. We appreciated Clint`s support of course.
But yes, I do wish more people had seen -- had seen those touching moments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you seem to be surprised by the Romney, I
mean, by Clint Eastwood`s performance as the camera took a cut away of you.

ROMNEY: I didn`t know it was coming. Again, I can tell you, we`re
grateful for everyone`s support and especially for what a great night it
was last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Executive producer saying go in for it. Go in
for it.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: She just threw Clint Eastwood not under
the bus, but under the chair.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: It was charming the way
she handled that.

MATTHEWS: A couple of really brutal lines and I like Eastwood as an
actor, I almost certainly like him personally.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTHEWS: But there was some really tough lines. That`s under the
belt, that`s below the belt. Something about there`s only one thing to do
when somebody fails, let them go. I thought that was a most powerful line
of the convention before he got into trouble with this pantomime.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: People roared. People cheered for that line. I think
that`s what people were expecting. Those sorts of sound bites, that
graveling voice.

CORN: This is what to me is inconceivable. From Mitt Romney, Stu
Stevens, and everybody else, you have this icon coming out there. You
don`t really ask him, what are you doing to do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- now we`re into this let`s talk about the
hairdo. I have to tell you, that was Christopher Lloyd in the back to the
future. What do you think? What was that about?

HENDERSON: It`s like bed head, right?

MATTHEWS: And then I thought why did he do it? Now, he`s got a new
film out. It looks good. It looks like "Million Dollar Baby," about women
and baseball. It looks great. Maybe this is part --

HENDERSON: Part of a comeback.

CORN: This guy is pro-gay marriage. He`s pro-choice. He`s talking
about doing things for global warming.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: He didn`t seem to understand Mitt Romney`s position on
Afghanistan.

So I don`t think from his side or from their side was this thought
out.

MATTHEWS: What about Gitmo because we haven`t heard that on this
program, which has a lot of progressive viewers. We haven`t heard him
complaining about to close Gitmo. People of my family want to know why.
But I`m asking you, it`s interesting he brought the topic up. Why haven`t
we closed Gitmo? Then he said we paid for it.

CORN: Then he said he didn`t want it closed and didn`t seem to know
it was Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who blocked the administration
from closing Gitmo.

MATTHEWS: OK, compare this. OK, Clint Eastwood last night, ready?
Tom Cruise on Oprah`s couch.

HENDERSON: What`s worse?

MATTHEWS: What`s worse?

CORN: Oh, this is a thousand times worse.

MATTHEWS: You are such a liberal.

HENDERSON: I think the Cruise thing was pretty embarrassing.

CORN: The Cruise thing only affects Tom Cruise and his family.

HENDERSON: This isn`t going to affect Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: Are you saying there`s an environmental, political impact
on this --

HENDERSON: Nobody cares. It`s just fun. People will watch it on
YouTube.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Mitt Romney`s message today, Americans, they`re talking about
the convention. They`re talking about Clint Eastwood.

MATTHEWS: The third segment of the show tonight. I`m sorry,
(INAUDIBLE) you lower than you deserved.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Nia-Malika, I love it, sounds Malidius (ph) --
Nia-Malika Henderson, and David Corn. Up next -- making much to do about
nothing.

Up next, what was it with all this 18th century talk of the
convention? It was all about Founding Fathers. Yes, they were great, they
set us up in the right direction, but we`re not still back where they
started us with. Or is that what the Republicans want us to do? Back to
there?

Anyway, that`s the big question. I want to get the answer to and
I`ve got the perfect guy to ask it too. We`ve got Dick Armey coming here,
one of the founders of the Tea Party movement.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri has been
hemorrhaging support since his comments about abortion, pregnancy, and, of
course, his phrase, "legitimate rape". But now, Karl Rove is going one
step further. According to "Bloomberg Businessweek," Rove told a
Republican donor`s breakfast in Tampa just today that, quote -- quote, "We
should sink Todd Akin and if he`s found murdered, don`t look for my
whereabouts."

Anyway, one reason Rove is worried, the latest polling from Missouri
shows what was once a winnable race for Republicans is now a tight race.
Claire McCaskill is at 45 at a new PPP poll and Akin is 44. Boy, that`s
too close for comfort if I were McCaskill.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Politicians often look to the past for inspiration, but set the clock
back about 225 years, you`ll get a picture just who the Republicans seemed
to favor their convention this week. Does the GOP want to be known as the
party of the past or the future?

Well, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey is chairman of the Tea
Party organization FreedomWorks.

And, Congressman, I want to start with this. I noticed this trend
this week in Tampa. It seems the Founding Fathers were getting a lot more
mentions than that bench of yours in the party with the new kids out there,
a lot more talk about this. Let`s look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wisdom of Washington, Jefferson and Madison.
Let`s renew our Founding Father`s victory for freedom. It`s the story of
our founding fathers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s the story of our Founding Fathers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Patrick
Henry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom --

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Our Founding Fathers --

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Our revolutionary
founding --

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Hamilton and Madison.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Or Founding Fathers.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The founding
generation.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: We`re into the 21st century, Mr. Armey. Why the call back
to our roots with such a resonance, such a relentlessness?

DICK ARMEY (R),FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, quite frankly, I
think that`s an appropriate call back to what many, many American people
realize is the founding foundations that make the nation strong. It`s a
matter of appreciation and respect for what I believe was in fact truly the
truly greatest generation of Americans.

My father`s generation gets a lot of credit for having done that, but
that generation of Americans that risked their life and property for
freedom and created the greatest government in the history of the world
with exactly the correct structure and separations of powers and
limitations of powers. That was a great genius generation in the history
of America.

And what our -- so many Americans realize is they watch this
government going adrift into $16 trillion worth of debt and 23 million
Americans out of work, and dysfunctional government that seems to not be
able to restrain itself from interfering and mandating in the lives of
people. That Constitution, those foundations of liberty and dedication to
a government that serves the people at the behest the people, that got it
right, that got it right. And we need to return to that structure and that
respect.

MATTHEWS: But that right --

ARMEY: Any problem of the United States government today is it has a
lack of respect for real people.

MATTHEWS: But let`s talk about respect for real people. But in the
beginning days of our country, women couldn`t vote. They`re the majority
of the electorate now. They weren`t allowed until after World War I when
we got that amendment to the constitution. Black Americans were slaves, of
course. But they weren`t allowed to vote until the 1860s, and not really
until 1960s.

There`s been progress made in giving rights to people who never had
them. Your party seems to speak of a "we" that only includes -- I mean,
I`m not knocking you. You`re obviously after female votes. But why don`t
you recognize the progress that`s been made in extending right that America
gets better?

(CROSSTALK)

ARMEY: -- progress. Two very, very commendable points of progress
in the history of this country that allowed an even larger number of people
to feel like they had a working partnership relationship in this great
government and both done by what? An amendment to that Constitution. That
is the way we make progress -- by building on the solid foundation that we
know is reliable and will carry us forward.

The fact of the matter is both of the constituencies you`re talking
about, American women and black Americans won their place in liberty by
amending that Constitution.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not entirely true. First of all, we could
argue this. I`m ready to do it. The 1964 Civil Rights Act wasn`t an
amendment. It was a legislative act of Congress.

ARMEY: And it was a legislative --

MATTHEWS: And it allowed a person who`s driving from Florida to the
north to go to a bathroom at the gas station. Yes?

ARMEY: And let me say once again, it was a legislative act of
Congress that would not have passed without the overwhelming support of
Republicans with the overwhelming number of no votes having been Democrats.

Still, nevertheless, people of different points of view understand
the wonderful opportunity we get within this constitutional base of
constructs, of constraints of government to advance the cause of
participation, increased happiness of all peoples. And so quite frankly, I
think it`s appropriate. And there are an awful lot of voters like myself
that took comfort and understanding, at least the Republican Party is a
party that understands the miracle of America is first found in that
wonderful document called the Constitution and the wonderful genius of
those innovators and entrepreneurs that were the greatest generations of
Americans that gave us that Constitution that protects our liberty
principally from our own government.

MATTHEWS: Well, I understand that, but it just seems like we`re
relitigating, refighting what began -- very much you and I, if we have been
around the 1840s, it would have been abolition, we`d be fighting about
slavery, we`d be fighting about states rights, we`d be fighting about
nullification and all that sort of thing. It seems like we`re back to that
on your side, and the interest of individual freedom advocating more states
rights, questioning the federal government. Sort of takes us back to where
we were. So your heroes are Madison and Jefferson. They`re not Hamilton,
they`re not FDR, they`re not Lincoln.

ARMEY: Oh, yes. Many of our heroes are Lincoln. Our party was born
with Lincoln`s emancipation proclamation. The fact of the matter is if you
hadn`t had the judiciary Supreme Court established by that Constitution to
adjudicate and make the rulings to make sure that we were in compliance
with the Constitution, many of those fights would have been lost. So that
separation of powers, those checks and balances that are being eroded today
as an irresponsible Congress year in and year in and year out have been
created in imperial presidency that`s scaring the devil out of the American
people, it`s appropriate for us to call upon officeholders at the federal
level to get back in compliance with those separations of powers that are
reflected in that great genius of that wonderful document we call the
Constitution which has so much comfort we were born free and will stay
free.

MATTHEWS: OK. I think we agree on one thing, too much presidential
powers to start wars, getting involved overseas when we should stay here.

Anyway, thank you, Dick Armey. We`ll have you back many times.

ARMEY: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with the biggest distortion
of the week. This is true. The Republicans actually wanted President
Obama to succeed, they claimed that last night. But was there any evidence
that was the case from day one? They wanted Obama to make it so they
couldn`t get the White House back? Give me a break.

You`ve watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. Tampa is dampa and now
it`s about to hit the hampa. Before it does, let`s remember it well.

Let`s remember that the party convention held this week showed the
raw power of people with a megaphone, a billion dollar megaphone capable of
trumpeting out the same message regardless of how often or how success that
message is impeached by objective critics. No matter how clearly it is
tagged as off base.

Well, the biggest fib offered last night in Tampa was the claim
Republicans wanted President Obama to succeed, really? Did anyone get that
word to center Republican leader Mitch McConnell? How about U.S.
Congressman Paul Ryan who we`re told now attended the meeting to undercut
the Obama administration the very night of Obama`s inauguration.

How many times these past four years have we looked at the Republican
House of Representatives and seen a caucus devoted to rejecting President
Obama`s programs, all of them?

Mitt Romney said last night that he had truly wish for President
Obama to succeed because his success, Obama`s, would have been good for the
country. I like the sound of that but how did that assertion square with
Romney`s own personal decision to run against and plan to defeat President
Obama long before the president, this president, even took the oath of
office.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "POLITICS
NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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