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updated 9/13/2012 1:16:05 PM ET 2012-09-13T17:16:05

HARDBALL
September 12, 2012

Guest: Sherrod Brown

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Romney bumbles Libya.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this horrible story of the courageous
American ambassador killed in Libya. Chris Stevens sounds like a great
guy, a Peace Corps volunteer who in his more recent career acted heroically
in saving lives in the overthrow of Gadhafi. The tragedy in Benghazi that
cost Ambassador Stevens his life unfortunately has been overshadowed by the
desperate reach by Mitt Romney to secure political advantage.

Hours before the killing, Romney issued a statement accusing President
Obama of having sympathized with those making the attacks on the U.S.
consulate. He called it "disgraceful." Reince Priebus went further.
"Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt," the RNC chair tweeted,
referring to a similar assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

The accusation that the president sympathized with Muslim militants
echoes past attacks from the right. What`s new in Romney`s statement on
Libya is its wildness. The president never said he sympathized with the
crowds in Libya and Egypt protesting an anti-Muslim film, apparently made
in Los Angeles. Never.

"Time" magazine`s Mark Halperin is MSNBC`s senior political analyst
and the Huffington Post`s editorial director Howard Fineman is also an
MSNBC political analyst.

How did Mitt Romney get into this mess? Take a look at the timeline
of events over a very significant 24-hour period. It started yesterday
morning about 6:00 AM Eastern time, noon in Cairo. That`s when the
American embassy put out a statement saying it condemns the continuing
effort by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.
That`s a reference to a film promoted, in part, by the Quran-burning
Florida preacher Terry Jones that satirized the Prophet Mohammed.

Throughout the day in Cairo, protesters marched on the embassy
protesting the film. At about noon Eastern time, the embassy wall was
breached, and the American flag was ripped down around 10:00 at night.

Secretary Clinton released a statement condemning the violence. At
10:09, the Romney camp sent a statement to the press saying, "It`s
disgraceful that the Obama administration`s first response was not to
condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions but sympathize with those who
waged the attacks." Around that time, the White House disavowed the
embassy statement from earlier that day.

And a few hours later, Republican National Committee chair Reince
Priebus tweeted, "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and
pathetic."

Six hours later, the AP broke the news that the American ambassador in
Libya had been killed when protesters stormed that U.S. mission in
Benghazi.

Gentlemen, I want to start with Howard Fineman on this. This is one
of those strange, tragic, comic affairs, tragic in the loss of the
ambassador and other lives working and heroically serving the United States
government, comic only in the political intrigue and perhaps stupidity here
of Mitt Romney.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Yes, well, this is what happens politically when you`re a candidate without
the facts and with few friends, OK? He`s maybe tied in the poll (ph), but
he doesn`t have close friends in the politics business.

He got the facts wrong. And it`s a classic case of jumping out ahead
of a fast-moving story, chasing what you think is some kind of immediate
political gain. He`s going after evangelicals and some other people,
including some more -- some Jewish voters who may be concerned in this sort
of xenophobic way about this clash of civilizations. But he got the facts
wrong, as you point...

MATTHEWS: Explain how he got the key facts wrong.

FINEMAN: Well, he got the key fact wrong in that the Cairo embassy
was not responding to the people scaling the walls. The original
statements by the Cairo embassy were long before there was any action at
the embassy.

MATTHEWS: Right.

FINEMAN: It was a perfectly fair and judicious statement.

MATTHEWS: To simply stay, to stop putting out these...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: But then what happens to him is Mitt Romney gets caught up
after the Libyan assault, which may have been planned, may have involved
old pro-Gadhafi forces or al Qaeda or whatever -- Mitt Romney gets swept
along and gets discredited for having jumped in too fast, and he doesn`t
have the friends in politics to defend him -- very, very few defenders,
other than the head of the RNC and some ultra-conservative Republicans.

John McCain`s not defending him in any real way. Most of the
Republican establishment`s not defending him. And of course, the Democrats
are having their will with him, including the president.

MATTHEWS: Let me give Mark -- I know you`ve been talking about this
today throughout the day on various platforms, and I want to hear what you
have to think about it, Mark. I always see you as a fair-minded guy on
these very tricky political questions.

This incident is a strange conjunction, I should say, as I said, of a
tragedy, where, apparently, a very heroic young ambassador was killed in
the line of duty, who has served his country, I think, wonderfully from the
time he was in the Peace Corps all through his career in the foreign
service. There he is, Chris Stevens -- getting killed basically in the
line of duty, trying to defend people in his consulate in Benghazi.

On top of that, and distracting sadly from it, is this sort of
sideshow. Explain how you put it together, all that happened today.

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME," MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of
all, I want to say to the families of the four Americans who died, as well
as American diplomats around the world, this is a very tough day because we
need our diplomats out there safe, being able to perform their job. The
Arab spring reaction on the American`s going to involve the U.S. military
in some cases, but very few. It`s mostly going to involve diplomatic
efforts. And so it`s a very tough day for America.

In that context, I think Governor Romney has every right and
obligation to criticize the current administration`s foreign policy. But
to go off without knowing all the facts and to go off at a time when -- if
he had something helpful to say, he could have said it privately to the
White House.

I think it`s a mistake politically. It may have some political
benefit, but in the long run, I think it`s a mistake politically. It does
cut him off from most Republicans on Capitol Hill, who, as Howard said,
have not been outspoken.

And I think it`s the wrong thing to do. He`s right to criticize.
He`s right to make points. If he has good points to make about how this
shows a failure of the president`s leadership, let him make it in a day or
two, when it`s not in the midst of a crisis, when the country should be
coming together and figuring out how to address a still volatile situation.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Mark says it absolutely right. Mitt Romney, by stepping in
as early as he did, without the facts and prematurely, allowed events to
control him because it became within hours a much more serious and deadly
and somber occasion than Mitt Romney realized at the time when he was
trying to make cheap political points.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: That`s what happened.

MATTHEWS: I think those are the three things people have to
understand of what happened here. First of all, the embassy in Cairo,
without any approval from Washington, put out a statement saying, Cool this
crazy film-making around the world. This is taunting the Islamic world.

Then six hours later, the embassy was overrun, and later that evening,
of course, the ambassador was killed over in -- over in Benghazi, a totally
different place.

Anyway, today, even before President Obama spoke, Governor Romney
doubled down on his statement from last night. Let`s listen.

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I also believe
the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with
those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their
actions. It`s never too early for the United States government to condemn
attacks on Americans and to defend our values.

I think it`s a -- a -- a terrible course to -- for America to -- to
stand in apology for our values, that instead, when our grounds are being
attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States
must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, it`s hard to even attempt to trying to get it
straight about this. That was the most terrible statement I`ve heard in a
long time. There he is, accusing the president of something he never did.
He never sympathized with the mobs. He certainly never sympathized with
somebody taking the lives of Americans or American people serving our
government.

FINEMAN: Or apologized.

MATTHEWS: He`s simply -- his people over -- not even his people,
regular career service people over in Cairo, without any checking with any
Washington, simply put out a statement before the mob even got at the wall,
Just cool it, over there so that they could show that they`re not part of
this sort of, you know, absolutely outrageous disrespect.

FINEMAN: I think -- I don`t know, Mark -- what Mark thinks, but that
was to me a little painful and infuriating, both painful and infuriating to
watch because I think Mitt Romney -- I`m going to give him enough credit
for knowing that the president in this context didn`t apologize for
anything, you know, did none of the things that he...

MATTHEWS: He never sympathized.

FINEMAN: He never sympathized or apologized. Mitt Romney is pursuing
a political strategy that is so nakedly and obviously political. As Mark
says, maybe it`ll help him some at some point.

But this is a guy who doesn`t -- Mitt Romney is a guy with not a lot
of Teflon on him. People don`t know who he is still. He doesn`t -- to me,
he doesn`t help himself politically with that kind of statement in terms of
who he is as a potential leader.

MATTHEWS: You never know. And I don`t want to carry this too far
today because it`s so bad already on him, on Romney, but you never know how
much he`s playing into this notion that somehow Obama`s one of them on
their side, sympathizes with them, sort of being one of them. I don`t know
how far he`s going with this, but it certainly smacks of it.

Anyway, after Romney spoke in a pre-planned interview with CBS News
for, of course, "60 Minutes" coming up, the president responded to Romney`s
criticisms. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s a broader
lesson to be learned here, and I -- you know, Governor Romney seems to have
a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the
things I`ve learned is you can`t do that, that, you know, it`s important
for you make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the
facts and that you`ve thought through the ramifications before you make
them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was irresponsible?

OBAMA: I`ll let the American people judge that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Mark, because you cover the campaign, the
tick-tock, as well as the big, sweeping changes and game changing. How
does this kind of thing happen, that somebody in the Romney camp gets the
word of what`s happening over there in Cairo, what`s maybe going on as well
in Benghazi. They see this statement come out.

They see a report on CBS that seems to put together this statement
with the attack on the embassy, in fact, the overrunning of the embassy,
and in that instance, the killing of the ambassador. And then they put it
all together or whatever.

How does that work, that they come out with a statement so strong and
sure so early in this news development?

HALPERIN: Well, I`ll tell you what I`m quite certain at least
partially animated their actions, Chris, which is Mitt Romney got into this
race in part because he thought the president was doing a bad job on the
economy, but also go read his book, which really describes what got him in
the race.

He feels that this incident reveals things about the president`s
leadership that he feels very strongly about. He thinks the president has
been too apologetic on behalf of the United States, although people have
pointed out the president in this case and others was not apologizing for
the United States. And he thinks the president is not managing foreign
policy well.

And there is one issue -- at least one factual issue that I`m sure
caught their eye, which is the release of the statement by the embassy in
Egypt, in Cairo. There is a question about how that statement got put out.
It`s not the best worded statement possible. The people in the embassy
might have had their own immediate reasons for putting it out.

But in that part of the world, there is a management question from the
State Department that needs to be looked into, is how do statements get
released on Twitter and elsewhere that could cause a political problem?

How it went from Mitt Romney to his staff deciding to do it
aggressively, I don`t know yet. But I will say that there is -- as I said
at the beginning, there`s legitimate things to look at here. But for Mitt
Romney in the heat of it, without the facts, to start to raise issues like
this, again, I think is misguided.

And I think you see in this campaign on both sides, even when things
are done in haste, an unwillingness to back down. Again, I`ll say on both
sides because there`s -- there`s a kind of a macho and testosterone-infused
impulse to -- once you take that position in this race, to not back down
one iota.

MATTHEWS: A couple of points have to be straightened out. First of
all, the president never sympathized or even issued a statement on this.
No such extant paper -- there is no such history of anything having done --
somebody in the embassy in Cairo said something about, Cool your jets out
there in California, stop putting these movies out, nothing about sympathy.

And to use the word "disgraceful" about something the president didn`t
even do!

FINEMAN: Well, I`m going to wait for Mark and John Heilemann`s book
to get the tick-tock of the exact...

MATTHEWS: Well, they have time to get that eventually.

FINEMAN: They will, and I`ll read it. But the -- but my sense of it
is that the foreign policy people around Mitt Romney, closest to him, who
travel with him, who talk to him all the time, are not really foreign
policy people per se. They`re Stuart Stevens, his media adviser, they`re
people like Dan Senor, who`s now working with Paul Ryan.

They sort of share this clash of civilizations view about world
affairs. And they`re also trying to paint the president as the other, as
the guy who has some kind of apologist agenda out there.

I don`t see Mitt Romney having studied his career as that much of a
foreign policy guy. He never has been. He was plugged into the neocon
view in about 2007, and that was the beginning of his foreign policy
education, and that`s still where he is.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And Reince Priebus follows -- very much follows a lot
of what the Republicans have been saying about Obama not being one of us,
the whole way they`ve successfully gotten -- and I said this yesterday, for
those who missed it -- 37 percent of Republicans right now in Ohio, a key
state in this election coming up in November, believe the president was not
born in this country. So this birtherism is not a theory, it`s out there
in the electorate now, thanks to those who`ve been pushing it.

Anyway, Mark Halperin, thank you, sir. Thank you, Howard Fineman.

Coming up: The new player in the election, foreign policy. We all
thought it was going to be about the economy, stupid. Remember that? But
with the events in Libya and in Egypt overnight, foreign policy is emerging
as a crucible in the campaign. And that may be not a good thing for
Romney, who wanted to run on one thing, jobs.

Also, if you thought what Mitt Romney said about Libya was over the
top, wait until you hear the latest riot of misinformation and downright
nastiness from, guess who, the lady from Alaska, Sarah Palin.

And if the late, great Tim Russert were here, he might say, Ohio,
Ohio, Ohio. Both the presidential election and control of the Senate may
be decided by the Buckeye state. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio joins us,
coming up.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" tonight with Mitt Romney`s pattern from the
beginning to push for wars he never has to fight himself.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Today a number of conservatives criticized Romney for his
ill-timed statements. Here was Peggy Noonan on Fox.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEGGY NOONAN, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I don`t feel that Mr. Romney has
been doing himself any favors, say, in the past few hours, perhaps since
last night. Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things
happen, cool words or no words is the way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And according to Buzzfeed, a number of Republican foreign
policy experts also rebuked Romney. Quote, "One," quote, "very senior
Republican foreign policy hand called it an utter disaster and said it was
Romney`s Lehman moment," referring to Senator McCain`s tone deaf response
to the financial crisis back in September 2008. This adviser said, quote,
"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy
statement, and now it`s just completely blown up."

And a former aide to Senator John McCain`s campaign told Buzzfeed,
quote, "It`s bad, just on a factual level, that the statement was not a
response but preceding, or one could make the case precipitating, and just
calling it a disgrace doesn`t really cut it." Not ready for primetime.

We`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My opponent and his
running mate are -- new to foreign policy.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: But from all that we`ve seen and heard, they want to take us
back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "Blustering and blundering" -- what a prediction of today`s
events. Anyway, back (ph) with the president, and as he accepted has
party`s nomination last week, he seemed to be predicting this week. Would
have never been more true than today. And Secretary of State Clinton
denouncing the attack on the Americans in Libya exemplified the
administration`s foreign policy strength.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is an attack that
should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world. This
was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of
Libya.

But let me be clear, there is no justification for this. None.
Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Foreign policy has been an afterthought in this election so
far, but suddenly, in one day, it has emerged as a potentially major issue
that`s likely to help the president.

Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The
Washington Post" and David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother
Jones" magazine. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Let`s talk about news development here. You`re an editor of long
standing. This story now looks like it is going to get top placement
everywhere in the papers tomorrow. This is a big one, the fumbling, the
bumbling, I called it, by Romney.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

The big headline, obviously, is what happened, the atrocity in Libya,
the riots in Cairo, who was behind the thing in Libya. The sidebar, right
next to it, right there below, is about Romney and this sort of "shoot from
the lip" approach, which -- and the questions of judgment and character
that it raises, frankly.

Domestic policy, you talk about stuff you don`t know anything about.
You make an ass of yourself. In foreign policy, you start a war if you do
that. It`s very serious. So, the judgment question. And then the
character question.

I mean, in a moment like that, when you don`t know what`s going on,
but you know America is under attack, we are supposed to be all Americans.

MATTHEWS: Yes, this is more Newt Gingrich -- this is the kind of --
Newt Gingrich used to do all the time.

Anything would happen, he would jump and say, hey, I can blame the CIA
for being underfunded. Immediately, the brain goes to, how can I attack
the gut?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The Democrats.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: This is a have you no decency moment, I think, because Mitt
Romney went up there -- and we all talk about the campaign, how can people
let him do this.

These words passed through his lips not once, but twice. He`s not a
dumb guy. He had to know what he was doing. As you noted earlier, he had
to know that the stuff wasn`t true, yet he said it anyway.

MATTHEWS: But that`s the new parlance, isn`t it? The new rules of
engagement are, even if you know something about Medicare isn`t true or
even if you know something about work and welfare aren`t true, you just
keep saying it.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: But there`s something particularly foul about this instance.

We have the death of this heroic ambassador that Mitt Romney is now
trying to exploit in some ways. And he`s accusing the president, who he`s
accused of being an appeaser and an apologizer, like killing bin Laden
wasn`t good enough, at this moment in time.

This is all that narrative that plays to the crazy right. You have to
think, wait a second, most of the voters that he needs to get now, the
independents, the undecided in the middle, they probably don`t think that
Obama who got bin Laden is an appeaser or an apologizer.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Just a minute. He used the word sympathizer. He`s not
appeasing the enemy. He`s with them.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Which is even worse now. Now they`re accusing him of being a
traitor. And this only plays to the far right. He can`t get out of this
mode of placating...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I raised this little fight with the chairman of the RNC a
couple weeks ago. And I believe he`s like the rest of them. They just
casually now accuse the president of being someone of the other.

He is out there sympathizing with our enemies. The word sympathy,
what is that about?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Well, it`s about what you said.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s on the other side.

CORN: Yes.

ROBINSON: You know, it`s not hard to read into that accusation of
treason.

There`s more than a whiff of desperation about it, to tell you the
truth, though. If it`s not out of desperation, which is at least a logical
motive, then it`s really dangerous. He must have known what he was doing
and he must have made some sort of calculation to do it. If he didn`t and
just kind of blundered out there with this, that worries me as about...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think this country is tired of wars. Look, we have still
got two going on with guys, women over there facing death every day over
there in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There`s talk of -- we have been behind the scenes in Libya, we have
been behind the scenes perhaps in Syria. We may get involved in a war with
Iran. Nobody wants a new war right now.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: But also there`s a sense, although they don`t want a new
war, they don`t want to think that we`re not fighting as best we can the
wars we`re involved in, like fighting terrorism.

So, what you do now is you put out the word, well, the president is
not only fighting the war not hard enough. He`s sympathizing with the
enemy. I have never seen this kind of attack on a president. Sympathizing
with the Vietcong? Nobody ever did that.

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: They call him weak and amateur and that America is under threat
because of him, and now accusing of him being in league with people who are
killing Americans. I think you`re right. It`s a new low. Who thought
they could go lower?

But it is also showing this is just one in a series of blunders. He
made the mistake at the Olympics. He made the mistake with the Chinese
dissidents. He made the mistake by not mentioning the troops. This guy
just doesn`t know how to...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think there`s a little more form to it than just
stupidity, don`t you think?

Gene, I get the feeling that part of it is the neocon thing of we`re
always against the world, Israel is against the world, we have got to
fight, and everything has to be an East/West fight to the death. And if we
want to stir it up a little ourselves, it doesn`t hurt.

ROBINSON: There`s a smart, informed neocon argument, and there is
what Romney is doing. OK. They`re not the same thing.

MATTHEWS: OK. He`s not quite on the script.

Anyway, "The New York Times"` great reporter David Sanger wrote about
the influences on Romney`s foreign policy choices and found he doesn`t
really have a North Star -- quote -- "What has struck both his advisers and
outside Republicans is that in his effort to secure the nomination, Mr.
Romney`s public comments have usually rejected mainstream Republican
orthodoxy. They sound more like the talking points of the
neoconservatives, the Bolton faction" -- that`s John Bolton, the former
U.N. ambassador -- "as insiders call the group led by John Bolton."

Now, this is an interesting thing. There are hard-liners who are
always hard-liners. Let`s go to wars, push China around, let`s go to war
with Russia again, let`s go to war with Iran.

And there he is, what do we do with Libya? What do we do with this
horrible situation of a mob attack? Do we attack the mob? Do we start
gunning them down?

CORN: It`s empty rhetoric. He gives talks about U.S. -- about Obama
not being tough and we need to be tough. But he doesn`t say what that
entails, as if getting Gadhafi out of power was not being tough, as if
getting rid of, what, 20, 30 al Qaeda leaders is not being tough.

So, it`s just -- I think it`s just buzzwords to get people who are
predisposed to think that Obama, because he`s a Democrat, because he`s
something else, is really not on the side of America.

MATTHEWS: Like what -- let`s talk foreign policy, because this gets
to -- I want to do in this segment -- you pick a president, you pick a
number of people to put a number of hats on. You`re head of the
government, head of the administration, the executive branch.

You`re leader of your political party. You`re also chief of staff of
the government, basically the chief of state.

ROBINSON: Right.

CORN: Right.

MATTHEWS: You are the people -- but you`re also the head of state.
You`re the person who represents the American people.

Which one of those hats is Romney ready for? I`m sure anyone...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: Maybe none.

MATTHEWS: I`m not sure you could argue that he`s ready to be our
commander in chief in the world. He doesn`t seem to have the propensity to
understand what these words mean when he speaks them.

CORN: Yes.

ROBINSON: Well, he hasn`t given us evidence that he does. We haven`t
seen that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Does he know what it means to get tough with another
country, a metaphor, what that means?

ROBINSON: It sounds like campaign rhetoric that`s intended to
increase his chances of getting elected, without regard for the
ramifications of what he is saying.

MATTHEWS: Does he mean fire on the mob? Imagine this, we start
firing on the Libyan mob.

CORN: Right.

ROBINSON: Great idea.

CORN: Have you heard him in the course of this campaign say anything
that was interesting about foreign policy?

MATTHEWS: I don`t think...

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: That made you think, hey, whether I agree or not, he thinks
about this in a certain way? The answer is no.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I have never thought his interests went beyond, and this is
fair, his faith, his family, his business. And currently his business is
running for president. He has no curiosity about the world. He hasn`t
thought about Libya. He hasn`t thought about Syria in his life.

Anyway, thank you, Gene Robinson, and thank you, David Corn.

Up next: how Romney`s latest hit job falls fits into a line of attack
he`s been honing for a long time. And it isn`t pleasant.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CONAN")

CONAN O`BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Mitt Romney is not backing down from
his statement that America`s number-one foe is Russia.

He`s not going to back down from that. Yes. Then he said America`s
number-one band is Duran Duran and number-one movie is "The Goonies."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

As President Obama campaigns around the country, he`s made a giving
voters a way to channel the urge to boo his Republican rivals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans, they
disagree with you.

(BOOING)

OBAMA: No, no, don`t boo. Vote. Vote.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Don`t boo. Vote.

Well, Bill Clinton hit the trail for President Obama last night and
had his own push to get out the vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you`re
looking for the future, I think the president`s budget plan is better,
makes the arithmetic test. I think the health care plan is better. I know
the higher education plan is better.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I know the energy plan is better. And I know the economic
plan is better.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And I know it will not amount to a hill of beans if you
don`t register and vote and get your friends to. So do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nothing but a hill of beans. That was one of just several
appearances the big dog will be making on the president`s behalf.

Next, there`s no shortage of outrage coming at Mitt Romney for his
statements on the recent developments in Libya -- of course, we just talked
about that -- that the president is somehow apologizing for America, but,
really, should we be surprised?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I start with the fundamental
conviction that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world.
I will not apologize for America.

We may have a president who, in looking at our history and looking at
those principles is inclined to apologize for America.

When the opportunity to arose to defend freedom, he`s either been late
to the game or failed to show up at all. He rushed to apologize for
America.

He traveled around the globe to apologize.

I will not apologize.

Stop the days of apologizing.

Never again apologize.

Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world
with an apology?

Apologize.

Apologize.

Apologizing.

Apologize.

Apologizing.

Apologize.

I won`t go around the world apologizing.

Let me mention one more thing, and that is, I believe in the greatness
of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, excuse me.

Anyway, Romney`s foreign policy seems to be built on the false notion
That the president`s only goal is to somehow apologize or appease other
countries.

Finally, Oprah meets the Reagans? Close enough. Check out this
snapshot from the set of a movie in production about a White House butler,
suitably titled "The Butler." Oprah is flanked there by Jane Fonda and
Alan Rickman, decked out for the picture as Nancy and Ronald Reagan.

That`s director Lee Daniels on the far left. That should be a good
movie.

Up next: from the presidential race to control the Senate, is there a
bigger battleground state than Ohio? Senator Sherrod Brown joins us next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANDA DRURY, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Amanda Drury with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

The Dow gained 10 points today. The S&P was up by three and the
Nasdaq also rose 10 points. Apple shares closing marginally higher, about
1.5 percent, following the debut of the iPhone 5. Facebook shares meantime
surged nearly 8 percent, with investors welcoming comments from CEO Mark
Zuckerberg, who says he`s still optimistic about the company`s prospects.
Investors are looking ahead to Thursday and whether or not the Fed will
take new steps to stimulate the economy.

And that is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide. Now it`s back
over to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati find themselves at the center of
the political universe this fall, as Ohio plays its role as critical
deciding force in the presidential election. It`s hard to see how Mitt
Romney can win the election without taking Ohio, where he`s trailing right
now.

But it`s not just hot at the national level. Senator Sherrod Brown
faces a challenge from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican with
millions of dollars behind him from Karl Rove and other moneyed backers on
the right. And this race is being watched as Democrats try and keep hold
of the U.S. Senate.

Senator Sherrod Brown is with us tonight.

Thank you, Senator.

I have always looked at you as a perfect fit for Ohio. You seem like
an Ohio Democrat. I can`t believe you`re getting challenged, but I guess
everybody has to worry about these self-financers that come along with a
lot of big bucks to try to buy it at the last minute. What does this race
look like right now for your reelection?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, if you talk to -- any reporter
would tell you off the record, not for attribution, that this wouldn`t be a
race it weren`t for the $17 million.

Outside groups, sort of directed -- the band is directed by Karl Rove
-- have spent literally $17 million in attack ads. We figure it`s Wall
Street, we figure it`s oil companies, we figure it`s Chinese interests,
some offshore companies that outsource and sell back into the U.S. We
don`t know. We just pretty much guess that, because it`s $17 million
attacking a guy who stood up to them.

So, we expect that, but we`re fighting back and we`re fighting back
with a good grassroots effort.

MATTHEWS: When you vote on these issues, whether they have to deal
with jobs or development or trade or whatever, can you tell when you cast
that vote in the Senate, when you put your hand up and say aye, do you know
at the time the enemies you`re making?

BROWN: I think so.

I think that the issue is, you don`t start calculating, well, if I
vote this way, they will spend this many millions of dollars, when you
really need to look at politics through the prism of, getting up every day,
how do I fight for jobs in Ohio, whose side are you on?

And when it comes to the auto rescue, I know whose side I`m on. When
it comes to NAFTA, I know which side I`m on. When it comes to jobs issues
and health care issues, you know you`re on the side of the middle class.
You wake up and you think, how do I help families that are struggling in my
state, families that want to send their kids to college? And then it`s
much clearer.

You don`t want to think about this little bird on your shoulder
saying, hey, if you vote this way, Karl Rove`s going to come in with the
oil industry and come in with the Wall Street banks and spend $10 million.

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the presidential race.

Matt Bai of "The New York Times" wrote this weekend about the credit
being taken for the economic turnaround in Ohio and other swing states
performing better than the national average -- quote -- "Republican
governors are saying that unemployment rates have plummeted because of
their pro-business policies. The president is saying that the hard
decisions he made earlier in his term were finally starting to pay off."

And then there`s Mitt Romney, a congenial optimist who finds himself
in the uncomfortable position of having to be a total downer, arguing that
there really isn`t a recovery at all. "Trust me, you`re still miserable,"
could be Romney`s bumper sticker in Ohio.

You know, it seems to me watching it from outside of Ohio that the
auto industry is everything there. You`re talking now not just Detroit,
but Ohio, something -- what percentage of your workers, men and women, owe
their jobs directly or indirectly to the success of the American auto
industry?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: The Center for Automotive Research out
of Detroit said 850,000 jobs in a state of 11 million people, Ohio, 850,000
jobs are connected directly or indirectly with autos. It`s not just the
plant that makes the Chevy Cruze in Youngstown or the plant that assembles
the Jeep Wrangler in Liberty, in Toledo, it`s all the supply chain, it`s
all the auto dealers, it`s the machinists and people that fix cars, it`s
the people that drive the trucks that move the car parts and the cars
around. It`s a zillion car parts manufacturers.

And the Chevy Cruze, for example, much of is made in Ohio from the
glass -- or from the transmission to the wheels to the steel, one thing
after another.

It`s clear that when we fought for the auto rescue, that that was all
about jobs in Ohio.

That`s really Governor Romney and my opponent`s problem is they
oppose the auto rescue. They don`t quite know how to back off that. The
other thing --

MATTHEWS: Well, where is -- the guy up against you, Mandel, he was
against the auto bailout, the auto rescue, right?

BROWN: Well, he called me un-American for supporting it, so I guess
you would come to that conclusion, yeah.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s take a look at an ad. I think you`ll like this
ad, Senator. The president`s (INAUDIBLE) have been trying to portray
Romney as perhaps successfully a businessman who cares more about the
bottom line than the average man or woman out there working. Well, this
Priorities USA ad was played in Ohio and other swing states earlier this
year. Let`s look at this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE EARNEST: Out of the blue one day, we were told to build a 30-
foot stage. Gathered the guys and we built that 30-foot stage. Not
knowing what it was for.

Just days later all three shifts were told to assemble in the
warehouse, a group of people walked out on that stage and told us that the
plant is now closed and all of you are fired. I looked both ways. I
looked at the crowd. And we all just lost our jobs. We don`t have an
income.

Mitt Romney made over $100 million by shutting down our plant and
devastated our lives. It turns out that when we built that stage, it was
like building my own coffin. And it just made me sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Translate that ad to what you know about your state and
the job situation in Ohio.

BROWN: Well, I translate it this way. From 2000 to 2010 our country
lost a third of manufacturing jobs, 5 million jobs, 60,000 plants in the
U.S. shut down. Since 2010, once the auto rescue and the Recovery Act
started to take hold, we`ve gained nationally 500,000 manufacturing jobs.

Our unemployment rate in Ohio went from over 10.5 percent to under
7.5 percent. Not good enough, far too many people out of work.

But people in Ohio, we make things. We`re the third leading
manufacturing state in the country. We`re coming back. We`re making --
we`re big in aerospace. We`re good -- big in solar energy. We`re
obviously big in auto and chemicals and cement and biotech and a lot of
medical devices and all of that.

And there`s a real manufacturing strategy now in this country that
we`re working on together, that`s really going to make a big difference in
Ohio.

MATTHEWS: You`re my kind of Democrat. Senator Sherrod Brown, good
luck in this race. I don`t mind saying it. I haven`t said it to many
guys, I want to you win.

BROWN: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, up next, Sarah Palin`s absurd assault on President
Obama. It doesn`t get much worse than this. Listen to her coming up. You
thought Reince Priebus was bad. Wait until you get (ph) Sarah.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, if you want to know where this presidential campaign
is being fought this week, check out the top five markets where the
campaigns and their allies are spending the most money on TV advertising.
And this week the top five are in just three states.

Here we go. Number five: Cleveland. Number four: Norfolk, Virginia.
Number three: Richmond, Virginia. Number -- also in second place, Des
Moines. The top TV advertising market this week in the presidential
campaign: Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, as Tim used to say. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We are back.

Sarah Palin is at it again, over the top and out of her depth
apparently. She used last night`s attacks on the U.S. embassies in Libya
and Egypt as an opportunity to make juvenile and small-minded attacks on
President Obama.

On Facebook there was this post around midnight Eastern Time. Quote,
you can`t do this -- what can I say, we already know President Obama likes
to speak softly to our enemies if he doesn`t have a big stick to carry,
maybe it`s time for him to grow one.

That`s what the former governor said.

With me now is MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh, "Salon`s" editor
at large and author of "What`s the Matter with White People", that`s her
book.

And Ron Reagan, also an MSNBC political analyst.

I don`t know. I`m going to hold off on commenting on that one
because I`ve never heard a politician talk like that. I really have
nothing to say out of decency. But you might, Joan, because you are wildly
gutsy in these matters. The language used there about big stick and the
rest of it --

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Yes, she has a --

MATTHEWS: What goes on here?

WALSH: Dr. Freud to the white courtesy telephone. I don`t know.
That`s all I can say, Chris. Why she`s talking about the president growing
a big stick is beyond me.

But she does have a unique way with word, she always has, and she is
the person -- those early Sarah Palin rallies in 2008, they were proto-Tea
Party rallies. She really was the person who pioneered this notion that
the president palled around with terrorists and that he didn`t see America
the same way that we did.

So this is just a continuation and the really sad thing is that now
we have the candidate for president, Mitt Romney, sounding more like Sarah
Palin than John McCain. And it`s really kind of frightening.

MATTHEWS: You know, war -- there is a metaphor that drives me crazy.
War is real, people get killed, relatives lose loved ones. Countries are
destroyed, Ron. The idea that metaphor is a testosterone or macho is sick,
sick.

What are we supposed to do? Just mow down the crowds, just start
shooting everybody, killing everybody in the country we want to start
another? Imagine what the United States -- if they had done what macho
would have said.

All right. Everybody like Boston massacre, just mow down everyone
trying to cross the embassy wall. Just kill them all.

WALSH: Right.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Just thinking about what you`re talking about here.

REAGAN: What`s sad also is that we`re actually paying any attention
to Sarah Palin. Let`s be clear here: Sarah Palin`s constituency are people
who wear red rubber noses and bells on their shoes. But what`s noteworthy
here is that Sarah Palin speaks for, what, maybe half of the Republican
Party. And as Joan mentioned, she sounds -- she and Mitt Romney sound just
alike right now.

MATTHEWS: You just said two different things, Ron, my friend. You
said that she doesn`t speak for anybody and then she said -- or she doesn`t
have a constituency and then you said she speaks for half the party.

REAGAN: No, no, no. I`m saying that we shouldn`t pay attention to
her because her constituency are ignorant and foolish people. But ignorant
and foolish people make up about half of the Republican Party right now.
That`s the only thing noteworthy about what she`s doing here.

MATTHEWS: They also have TV sets. They also have TV sets.

REAGAN: Well, that`s fine. I hope they hear what I said about them.

MATTHEWS: They certainly did, Ron.

Any way, FOX News host Bill O`Reilly asked Palin last night whether
the Romney campaign should launch more, catch this, more personal attacks
against President Obama. There`s a guy bear baiting. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Should Mitt Romney go after Barack Obama
more -- in a more personal way? Should he use words like incompetent,
dangerous, socialist, those kinds of buzz words that would get an enormous
amount of attention, that would lock people in? Should he do that?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Well, they`re not just buzz
words. Those are accurate descriptions of our commander-in-chief.

O`REILLY: So he should do that?

PALIN: Yes. He should be very aggressive and he should be adamant
in his attacks on Obama`s record which is so dismal, his plan or lack of a
plan, of Obama`s, to get us out of these woeful times. Yes, needs to be
severely aggressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know what you think of that, but it seems like one
of those acts on the old "Ed Sullivan Show", when a guy would come on with
his animal act. I mean, there he is bear baiting her into saying, would
you use words like these and then she does exactly what he`s sort of
intended or trained her into doing. What a strange dialogue.

WALSH: I guess they think that makes good TV and nothing Bill
O`Reilly shocks me or surprises me, really. But every once in a while he
has a little flash of decency and a little flash of intelligence, too, but
there the ratings must be telling him --

MATTHEWS: I`m with you on that. I don`t -- I like Bill O`Reilly in
a weird way because he`s kind of a rough customer but, you know what? I
agree with you. He`s got brains.

Ron, I want you to respond to this. This is John Kerry telling a
funny jokes at the convention at the DNC and then former Governor Palin
responding to it. Let`s watch them in that order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He`s even blurted out the
preposterous notion that Russia is our number one political, geopolitical
foe. Folks, Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska. Mitt
Romney talks like he`s only see Russia by watching "Rocky 4".

PALIN: I think he even diminished himself by even mentioning my
name. How does he even know my name? Aren`t these guys supposed to be
these bigwig elites who don`t waste their time on the little people like
me, me representing the average American?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: She was the vice presidential nominee of the Republican
Party four years ago and she`s playing, what? I don`t get it. Somebody
you never heard of.

REAGAN: I think we all diminish ourselves by mentioning Sarah Palin,
frankly, to tell you the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

REAGAN: But what this speaks to is the amateur hour quality of the
foreign policy outlook of the Republican Party. You don`t have to go as
far as Sarah Palin to get out of their league. Mitt Romney is out of his
league. He proved it when he went to England, to the Olympics and he`s
really proved it over this last business with Libya and Egypt with his
completely -- I don`t know what he was thinking yesterday.

MATTHEWS: OK. You know, Ron, Joan, I can spend all night talking to
you two, what a pair. Thank you both. You`re my champs (ph).

WALSH: Thank you.

Anyway, Joan Walsh, Ron Reagan, what a duo.

When we return, let me finish with Mitt Romney, always pushing for
wars he never has to fight himself. Notice, back to Vietnam? No, this
time, not him.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: Do people ever change? I
wonder.

Back when he was in college, Mitt Romney demonstrated for the war in
Vietnam but did not go so far as to demonstrate for the war in the war. He
likes the idea of the Vietnam War, not the reality.

Here he is again playing war hawk. He wants us to be tougher with
Russia, tougher with China, tougher looking backward in Libya, tougher
today in Syria, and, of course, toward Iran. Toughness is a metaphor for
Mr. Romney. He likes the notion of fighting again, not so much the
reality.

Why did he say what he did last night? You have to ask. Why did he
put out word that President Obama was sympathizing with militants attacking
our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi? Obama never said he
did. Even the U.S. embassy in Cairo didn`t say any such thing. It merely
urged people to avoid stirring up east/west hatred by mocking Islam.

There`s a lesion here: Mitt Romney is able to be pushed either by his
own fear of missing an opportunity or his advisers pushing him. He jumps
into matters before understanding them and it shows.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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