1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 9/17/2012 12:02:14 PM ET 2012-09-17T16:02:14

HARDBALL
September 14, 2012

Guests: Cynthia Tucker, Joy-Ann Reid, Willie Brown, Erin McPike, Larry Kramer


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Romney heads right.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this, Mitt Romney. I remember when George
Wallace said there`s not a dime`s worth of difference between the
Republicans and the Democrats. Well, today, for those paying attention,
there`s not a dime`s worth of difference between Mitt Romney and the
Republican fringe.

Sarah Palin accused the president of palling around with terrorists.
Romney today accuses Obama of sympathizing with the attackers in the
Mideast. Romney not only exploits the language of the right, he`s enjoying
it. The birthers say Obama isn`t one of us, wasn`t born here, is some kind
of Muslim mole. Romney says Obama sympathizes with the Muslim killers.

Well, today the state of Kansas is deciding whether to let Obama`s
name even appear on the ballot. The birthers are still at it. The Kansas
secretary of state wants more evidence of the president`s legitimacy to
run. His birth certificate, apparently, isn`t enough.

Driving the wedge deeper, Romney plays the welfare card. His new
ally, Newt Gingrich, talks of our "food stamp president," and one
Republican-dominated state after another tries to limit minority voting,
all in the cause of making out the president as some sort of "the other,"
the foreigner who needs, in the words of Romney surrogate John Sununu to,
quote, "learn how to be an American."

Well, the campaign is coherent, it`s comprehensive, and its whole
purpose is to convince the working-class white guy that Obama is not one of
us, he`s one of them, a foreigner, a usurper in league with the enemies,
and Mitt Romney`s right out there overseeing every word of it.

Cynthia Tucker`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and Ron
Reagan`s an MSNBC political analyst.

I just want to start with this, Cynthia. Watching it all, as I`ve
just described it, everything going on -- the voter suppression, the lingo,
the attack on the president as sympathizing with the bad guys -- I never
heard such a coherent, comprehensive effort to describe a guy as not really
an American, as being one of the enemy or in league with the enemy at
least. Your thoughts?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Chris, this is the Southern
strategy writ large. This is all about appealing to racially resentful
whites.

And I have to tell you, I have been very disappointed and surprised by
Mitt Romney`s running his campaign this way. I met him back in 2007, when
I was still editorial page editor at "The Atlanta Constitution." He seemed
smart, savvy, moderate, reasonable and honorable.

But I have to tell you, once he started running those outrageous ads
on welfare, I knew that he had put his conscience, if he has one, in a
blind trust for the rest of this campaign.

Not only are they a clear effort to run again the Southern strategy
writ large -- this is all about telling racially resentful whites that
Obama wants to change the work requirements so that black people don`t even
have to work to get government benefits. That`s what the ads say.

MATTHEWS: They sure do.

TUCKER: It`s an outrageous lie. On top of...

MATTHEWS: Well, now Ron, you`re...

TUCKER: ... everything else, it`s a lie.

MATTHEWS: Ron, go ahead. Talk about the whole thing, this whole
thing about what happened, the horror that happened in Libya. We`ll talk
about the president`s wonderful performance in a moment. But this way
they`re attacking Obama, it`s not as if he let his guard down, it is as if
he`s sympathizing with the enemy. It`s like they`re portraying him as the
other. It`s not just an argument over competence or strength, it`s over
loyalty.

RON REAGAN, AUTHOR, "MY FATHER AT 100," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, indeed, and Cynthia is right that this is the "Southern strategy"
writ large.

Look, Chris, real substantive political leaders in America,
presidents, for instance, like FDR in the `30s, or you could say Ronald
Reagan in the `80s, tend to remake their parties in their own images,
around their own core beliefs.

Mitt Romney doesn`t appear to really have a core that you can build
anything around. And so as a result, the party remakes him in its image.
And the party, the Republican Party right now is dominated by this -- you
call them a fringe, but it`s a larger chunk than that, these kind of Tea
Party folks.

And part of their thing is they demand fealty. You have to adopt
their delusional worldview, which includes things like Obama is a Muslim
Manchurian candidate who really...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: ... hates America, and he`s all about destroying the country.
You have to blow the dog whistle constantly to reassure those people that
you buy into that, and that is what Romney is doing. And we`ve seen how --
what horrible trouble it`s gotten him into with Egypt and Libya now.

MATTHEWS: Well, the dismaying if not terrifying thing to watch is the
way that a lot of moderate white people, Republicans and Democrats, just
sit there and say they don`t hear the whistle.

Well, anyway, I noticed in the Republicans talking about Obama this
week, after the American deaths in Libya, the language of the "other,"
portraying the president as siding with the enemy. On Tuesday night, RNC
chair Reince Priebus tweeted, quote, "Obama sympathizes with attackers in
Egypt. Sad and pathetic."

Wednesday morning, Romney doubled down on his earlier statement that
the president had sympathized with the attackers. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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
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: Well, there`s no space between this kind of talk and what
we heard from Sarah Palin in the campaign four years ago. Catch her act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R-AK), FMR. GOV., FMR. VICE PRES. NOMINEE: We see an
America of exceptionalism.

SUPPORTERS: USA! USA! USA!

PALIN: Yes, USA! USA!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

PALIN: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough
to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: well, this gets back to you, Ron. I want you to take off
here because you did -- and we`ll get back to Cynthia, obviously. But it
seems to me, Ron, you`ve hit something here. Instead of leading, he`s
shrinking down into something smaller than he began the campaign as -- I
can be a crazy, too. I can be a fringey, too.

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I can talk like Sarah Palin, because that seems to be the
language it takes to win a Republican constituency.

It`s pretty sad to watch somebody get smaller as the campaign goes on,
reaching down to the people who think small and think everybody else is a
foreigner but them, or they`re a different ethnic group, or they`re black
and I`m white, or whatever the game they`re playing in their heads is.
Somehow that justifies hatred.

REAGAN: Well, the irony of this for Mr. Romney, I think, is that he`s
doing this to further his own ambitions. He thinks that his words
ultimately don`t have any real meaning. He can say whatever he needs to in
the moment in order to get himself into the White House.

But people looking at this, people who he needs to have vote for him,
see a man without principle, see a man with no core, and see a man who is
decidedly, appallingly unpresidential.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REAGAN: This business in Libya just recently, this was an opportunity
-- he had no real responsibility, of course, but it was an opportunity for
him to sit in the big chair, to look presidential, to do things that -- say
things that presidents do or should say. And he couldn`t do it. He had to
once again cater to this delusional far right, which has a completely
twisted nonsense view not just of foreign policy, but of the universe we
live in.

MATTHEWS: Well, unfortunately, the parallel universe you`re
describing has moved into ours. And the latest on the birther front, here
it is in Kansas. The state objections board is discussing removing the
president of the United States from the November ballot, following a
complaint from a Kansan claiming Obama`s not a natural-born citizen.

Who`s on that objections board? Three Republicans, including Kansas
secretary of state and Mitt Romney supporter Kris Kobach, who told "The
Topeka Capital-Journal," quote, "I don`t think it`s a frivolous objection.
I do think the factual record could be supplemented here."

Well, don`t forget the president`s mother was from Kansas. Cynthia,
there they go again. Mitt Romney, by the way, just a few weeks ago bragged
that he hadn`t been asked about his birth certificate.

Let`s catch this slur in action one more time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were
raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital, I
was born at Harper Hospital. No one`s ever asked to see my birth
certificate! They know that this is the place that we were born and
raised!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s been described after the fact as a joke. It`s
a slur, at least. But we see now that the so-called joke of birtherism
continues in Kansas, the birthplace of his mother, the president`s mother.
They`re just pushing this thing, Cynthia.

TUCKER: This is -- Chris, this is another opportunity for Romney to
show that he`s a leader, and he`s failed. He could stand up and say, This
is nonsense, this is outrageous. I want the Kansan Republican Party, the
secretary of state in Kansas, to know that Barack Obama belongs on the
ballot in Kansas.

He has not done that. This is another test of leadership that he has
failed.

You know, John McCain in 2008 called out the fringe elements. He
said, No, no, we`re not going to sit here and say that the president wasn`t
born in this country. Mitt Romney seems unable to do that.

Ron, your father -- when Jimmy Carter was unable to get the hostages
out of Iran, your father said, This is a time for all Americans to stand
together. He didn`t take that opportunity to bash Carter. But Mitt Romney
is unable to show that kind of leadership. He has failed his 3:00 AM test.

REAGAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, you know...

REAGAN: And by the way...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I just saw the clip of President Reagan doing just what
Cynthia described so well. In the midst of the horror right after Desert
One failed, those guys were killed in that incredibly difficult challenge
to get the hostages out, he just said, you know, This is a time where the
only words we speak should be few and they should be prayers. That`s what
he said.

REAGAN: It`s a question of -- it`s a question of judgment and it`s a
question of character, and I`m afraid Mitt Romney has shown a lack of both
this last week.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I don`t like the -- I don`t like the smell of
this, the way they`re playing this birther card. I don`t like the smell of
this gaming that you actually think you get votes by accusing the president
of basically being on the other side of a horrendously tragic situation
involving the deaths of our patriots over there. And to say this guy`s on
the other side, our president, is really bad news for our democracy.

Anyway, thank you, Ron Reagan. I think you nailed it. Cynthia
Tucker, as always, thanks for coming on with your passion and journalistic
understanding of what`s going on this time. And it is something to pay
attention to this past week.

The violent protests sparked by that video, by the way, denigrating
Mohammed, spread to more than a dozen countries today. Clashes broke out
from Europe to India. And some of the worst violence occurred in Tunisia,
where demonstrators stormed the U.S. embassy. Police there said at least
three protesters were killed and dozens more were wounded, all this despite
pleas for calm by world leaders, including the Islamist president of Egypt.

Meanwhile, here at home, there was a moving ceremony at Andrews Air
Force Base -- I mean something else -- as the flag-draped coffins of the
four Americans killed in Libya were brought home and were met by Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, both of whom spoke at this
somber and moving ceremony covered live by all the cable networks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The flag they served
under now carries him home. May God bless the memory of these men who laid
down their lives for us all. May God watch over your families and all that
love them. And may God bless these United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New poll numbers now in the presidential race. Let`s check
the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to a new CBS/"New York Times" poll, President Obama has 3-
point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters nationwide, 49 to 46. And
yesterday, we showed you how President Obama`s leading in Florida, Ohio and
Virginia. And one more battleground to add to that list, New Hampshire.
That`s an important state. A new WMUR Granite State poll shows the
president with a 5-point lead in Mitt Romney`s adopted home state. It`s a
key state with a small electorate vote you can`t predict, 45 to 40 now for
the president.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. For weeks now, Mitt Romney has
faced criticism from leaders of his own party for running a campaign short
on details, a stealth campaign, if you will. He lays out his goals are but
doesn`t explain the dirty details of what it would take to achieve them.

The staunchly conservative "Wall Street Journal" editorial page, for
example, seemed to speak for many when it warned that there are political
risks associated with Romney`s attempt to, quote, "win without to explain
the economic moment or even his own policies."

Perhaps the problem is Romney`s policies themselves. He has a tax
plan that gives the wealthiest Americans big cuts, but would mean tax
increases for the middle class. His economic plan calls for capping
federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, but fails to mention what that would
mean in terms of cutting government programs. For Romney, it`s simply
better to avoid details. And this is not new to politics.

Joy Reed managing editor of TheGrio and Michael Steele is the former
chair of the Republican National Committee. Both MSNBC political analysts.

Let me try to be fair here. Romney does give us a sense of what he
wants to do. He talks about tax relief in terms of getting rid of the
estate tax, what Republicans call the death tax. he talks about reducing
substantially the corporate income tax from 35 down to 25. That`s a big
cut. And from across the board -- he talks about across-the-board cuts of
marginal rates for individuals, (INAUDIBLE) say some30 -- 35 percent for
the highest rate now down to 28.

MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think
it`s...

MATTHEWS: So you get a good sense how he`s going to make people
happier. But then when somebody like David -- well, David Gregory, my
colleague here, works right across the hall here...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: When he gets on -- let`s take a look at what happened when
David Gregory tries to find out what`s underneath that little, what, that
little Christmas present, what`s down there as the cost of this new thing.
Here he is, Mitt Romney saying under his plan, tax rates would go down for
everybody. But how would he pay for that? Well, he says he would take
away tax deductions for the wealthy.

On "MEET THE PRESS," as I said, this past weekend, he failed to
mention a single example. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: So everything I want to do with regards to taxation follows
simple principles, which is bring our rates down to encourage growth, keep
revenue up by limiting deductions and exemptions, and make sure we don`t
put any bigger burden on middle-income people. In fact, I want to lower
the burden on middle-income people.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": But Governor, where are the
specifics of how you get to this map? Isn`t that an issue?

ROMNEY: Well, the specifics are these, which is those principles I
described are the heart of my policy.

GREGORY: Can you give me an example of a loophole that you will
close?

ROMNEY: Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income
taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the problem with Mitt Romney`s tax plan as
he`s laid it out. The numbers don`t seem to add up. He says he`ll drop
the marginal rate for everyone by 20 percent, as I said. He`ll also repeal
the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, and he`ll drop the
corporate rate to 25 percent. I told you that.

All told, that would cost $4 trillion over 10 years. And the problem,
Mr. Chairman, is...

STEELE: Yes, sir.

MATTHEWS: ... that`s a lot of money to cover (ph).

STEELE: That`s a lot of money.

MATTHEWS: And the question I have is, why won`t he tell us what
deductions he`s going to -- you know the big three deductions...

STEELE: Your house...

MATTHEWS: You get a deduction for your house...

STEELE: Charitable giving.

MATTHEWS: ... you get a deduction for charitable, and your state and
local.

STEELE: State and local.

MATTHEWS: That`s where the money is.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Willie Sutton says, Go where the money is. How`s he going
to go there without affecting anybody (ph)?

STEELE: Look, I`m not going to take issue with your point because I
think it`s a legitimate point, that there is a great deal of specificity
that is going to have to be put on the table. My hope is that when we get
to the debates that we`ll be able to get through some of that. The
American people need to know.

Likewise, the same is true for the president, laying out, you know,
some of the specificities of, you know, if you want to keep the middle
class tax cuts from the Bush years in place, how do you, you know, cover
that $3 trillion that that costs? So both of these gentlemen have to do
that.

But I think for Romney in particular, particularly since you`ve got
that mantra that you put out there -- you know, tax cuts for the wealthy,
the burden`s on the middle class -- you`re going to have to show with some
specificity how they`re not going to be more burdened.

MATTHEWS: OK. Just to add to what you say, the president, although
he is going to keep the tax relief from the Bush tax cuts for people below
$250,000, he is going to recoup more revenue by taxing people above the
$250,000 under the old rates.

STEELE: And that`s a significant portion of the middle class who are
small business owners, like myself.

MATTHEWS: I know. But you can`t have it both ways. He is telling
you the pain. He is saying there will be pain.

STEELE: Well, then you can`t tell the middle class that they`re not
going to feel the pain, because they will feel the pain.

MATTHEWS: He told them that anybody who makes more than $250,000 will
have to pay the old tax rate, they`re not going to get the break under
Bush.

Your thoughts, Joy, because it seems to me that what he wants to do is
tell you all the bennies, as we used to say in school. All the bennies I
will tell you about. This is all the good stuff, but I am not going to
tell you the cost.

JOY-ANN REID, THEGRIO.COM: It`s all dessert, no broccoli, Chris,
basically.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

REID: And Chairman Steele did a great job sliding in there that meme
that is completely false that is always thrown out. Well, then you`re
talking about small business owners.

First of all, 3 percent of small business owners are S corporations
that are taxed more than $250,000 a year. You`re hitting very few people.
You`re hitting like "The Chicago Tribune" when you are talking about people
paying more taxes.

But, yes, the problem with Romney is, as you said, Chris, everybody
knows where the money is. There are a finite number of loopholes. You`re
talking about tax breaks on health care plans. You`re talking about tax
breaks on your mortgage interest. Everyone knows what they are and they`re
all popular.

And Romney doesn`t right now want to offend anyone. He is trying to
run the world`s most inoffensive campaign, except when it comes to talking
about Libya. He doesn`t want to tell people what he is going to do because
he knows that there`s a constituency for each of those loopholes. And he
just doesn`t want to say that that`s what he is going to get rid of.

MATTHEWS: Remember Russell Long, the chairman of from the Senate
Committee, who said, don`t tax me, don`t tax you -- no, don`t tax me.
Don`t tax you. Don`t tax me. Tax that fellow behind that tree.

STEELE: Tax that fellow behind that tree. Right.

MATTHEWS: Somebody you never met.

REID: Exactly.

STEELE: But, Chris, to that -- I mean, but, Joy, I appreciate your
sort of sliding in there that it`s not going to be the same for Obama.
Obama is not being clear in saying that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He is going to tax the people that are rich a lot more.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Hold it.

But taxing the rich a lot more is not going to cover the cost of the
health care system, it`s not going to cover the cost of protecting all that
he wants to protect in education, all these new teachers he wants to pay
for, all these fire people. All this money he wants to flow back to the
states, where is it coming from?

The reality of it is neither one of these gentlemen are being exactly
explicit nor honest about how they`re going to cover the burden both of
them put on the bottom line of the American taxpayer.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: I think actually that`s not quite accurate, Mr. Chairman.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

REID: Yes, that`s not accurate.

First of all, the president put out and worked with John Boehner to
come up with this grand bargain that put a lot of specifics on the table as
to what they would do. Look, when you look at Mitt Romney`s plan, you are
talking about giving the insurance companies back the $716 billion in
subsidies and gimmes that Obamacare took away from them.

You`re talking about increasing defense spending. You`re talking
about also zeroing out cap gains and other taxes that hit the rich and hit
big corporations, dropping the corporate tax. You do all of that, you have
put us more than $5 trillion or $5 trillion in the hole. Romney won`t give
you one thing that he would do.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You just said -- I agree with all of that. But you threw
in some of the Ryan stuff, too, that zeroing out cap gains. That`s a Ryan
idea. Right?

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Yes. But isn`t he running on Ryan`s beliefs? I thought Romney
was running on Ryan`s program.

MATTHEWS: OK. We will see.

Anyway, Ryan`s policy on federal spending is equally -- his spending
is equally fuzzy. He has promised not to cut defense spending or spending
on Medicare or Social Security. How can you make those numbers work?

Well, according to Ezra Klein, that smart guy -- quote -- "If Romney
is elected, then by his third year in office, every single federal program
that`s not Medicare, Social Security or defense will be cut on average by
40 percent. And that means Medicaid, infrastructure, education, food
safety, road safety, the Postal Service, basic research, foreign aid,
housing, housing subsidies, food stamps, the census, Pell Grants, the
Patent and Trademark Office, the FDA. All of that has to be cut by on
average," as he said, "40 percent. That`s not even remotely plausible.
The consequences would be catastrophic."

So, I think a lot of Republicans when they vote probably say there`s
nothing in the federal government for me. I don`t care how much they cut
it. Isn`t that the attitude?

STEELE: That`s not true.

MATTHEWS: Because all these cuts look pretty significant to me. I am
trying to give your politician a break. There must be some reason why he
doesn`t have to explain this.

STEELE: What Republicans generally argue is that the governments, you
know, going back to certainly Bush years and even going back to Reagan, has
grown.

And so you have this new breed of -- which is really rather old-school
thinking of let`s control the growth and size and spending of the federal
government. All the things you just listed, I guess my question would be
why can`t we as a nation have an honest discussion about the value and
worth and the expense of those programs? And maybe it`s not a 40 percent
cut, maybe it`s a 10 percent cut.

MATTHEWS: You make my point.

Well, if Romney is proposing those cuts, shouldn`t he begin that
conversation?

STEELE: I think he should. And so should the president, because the
president can`t run around the country talking about he wants to spend all
this money and not tell us exactly where it is going to come from, because
quite frankly, the rich are not going to pay for all the spending that this
president wants to do.

MATTHEWS: All I got to tell you, Barack Obama, you can argue with his
policies all you want, but he ain`t running as a guy giving stuff away.

He`s not promising these big tax cuts for the rich.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Are you kidding me?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He`s taking the heat.

REID: And, Chris, one other thing...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: Oh, I get it. He cuts Opportunity Scholarship for poor kids
in the District of Columbia...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: Mr. Chairman...

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: I`m just saying, that`s an example.

MATTHEWS: It`s back in. They`re still back in there.

STEELE: Back in there -- only because people screamed.

REID: And government spending has grown in part because of the wars,
because of the military spending. And Mitt Romney, he wants to double down
on Bush era military spending.

If we are running around fighting foreign wars all over the country,
you can`t say that you`re going to close the deficit. That part of the
budget also has to be open to cuts. And guess what? That`s why we have a
little something called the cliff that we`re heading for toward the end of
the year.

STEELE: So I think the president should start with cutting the drone
program.

MATTHEWS: You know that lady Joy, that wonderful person talking
there, Joy-Ann Reid, is the same brain I have.

STEELE: Oh, lord.

MATTHEWS: She`s better at it.

You`re better at it.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I`m not patronizing. You`re better at saying it than I am.

REID: I appreciate that.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Keep it up. I`m just going to have you on and I don`t have
to think anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Steele.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Because you know more stuff.

Thank you.

Isn`t she better than you? Come on.

STEELE: Oh, please.

MATTHEWS: Joy-Ann Reid, thank you, Michael Steele.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Up next: Two presidential candidates walk into a
barbershop. Well, there`s a joke. Ever wonder what would happen if Mitt
Romney and Barack Obama got haircuts together? Well, the "Sideshow" is
coming up next.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First: Break out the Romney, Obama impersonators.

What would happen if the two candidates met at a barbershop and got to
talking pop culture? Here is one possibility.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, good morning, whiner in chief.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, look, it is the great white dope.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How is your post-convention bump?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It wasn`t easy going up against the VMAs last
night.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Look, Obama, you`re hip, how do I say it, urban.
Your Urbama.

You must know all those MTV musical folks.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, sure. All of us black people know each
other.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Remember when Madonna and Britney kissed?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No. But they tell me it was a big pop culture
moment.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Maybe we put our differences aside and start our
own boy band, me, you, Joe. He does do a mean falsetto.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Good idea.

I would like to call our band New Direction.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There`s already One Direction.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We all know your direction. And look where it
has gotten us.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No, not my direction, One Direction.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It is just like you to think that there`s only
one direction.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There is only One Direction. That`s the band`s
name.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes. I have got to go. Do you have change for
$1,000?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You got change for $1,000?

Well, that`s just one part of a series by Stun Creative suitably
entitled "Presidential Clippings."

Next, an extra dose of interesting for the presidential race. What`s
in store when this guy gets into politics?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: His small talk has altered foreign policy. He once ran a
marathon because it was on his way. Sasquatch has taken a photograph of
him. He is the most interesting man in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I don`t always drink beer, but when I do, I
prefer Dos Equis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Dos Equis.

Can his small talk also help bring in campaign cash? That`s right.
The most interesting man in the world -- or at least the actor who plays
him in the Dos Equis beer commercials -- has weighed in on the presidential
race.

That other, Jonathan Goldsmith, is teaming up with Vermont House
Speaker Shap Smith to host a fund-raiser for President Obama next week.

Finally, it`s no secret that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman weren`t
exactly chums in college during the GOP primaries. Apparently, not much
has changed. Huntsman was on both "MORNING JOE" this morning and "ANDREA
MITCHELL REPORTS."

Well, today, Romney may have his vote, but not much else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What is the basic
difference between President Obama`s strategy and philosophy towards
dealing with Arab spring vs. what Governor Romney is proposing?

JON HUNTSMAN JR. (R), FORMER UTAH GOVERNOR: Well, I don`t know what
Governor Romney is proposing at this point.

And I am a little confused on what President Obama is doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That might be a problem.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC: That`s kind of a problem, isn`t it, that you
don`t know what Mitt Romney is proposing?

HUNTSMAN: It is kind of a problem.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Have you
decided whom you`re voting for?

HUNTSMAN: Oh, I support Mitt Romney. I mentioned that a long time
ago.

MITCHELL: When was the last time you talked to him?

HUNTSMAN: I don`t ever talk to him.

MITCHELL: Enough said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: "I don`t ever talk to him," what a line, and the
conversation ends right there.

Back when he was still with the presidential race, it was Huntsman
dubbed Romney -- quote -- "a perfectly lubricated weather vane" for his
shifting positions on several issues. Can`t say worse than that about
somebody.

Up next: Last week, President Obama said -- quote -- "I am the
president," and this week he showed it. Mitt Romney has got a lot to
learn.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, an earlier rally fizzles, but the Dow still closes up 52 points,
the S&P 500 adding five, and the Nasdaq rising by 28. Apple shares hit an
all-time high earlier, near $700 a share, following this week`s iPhone 5
debut. Meanwhile, Facebook shares are clawing their way back, up about 6
percent today to close at $22 a share. And Kraft is exiting the Dow. It
will be replaced by UnitedHealthcare effective September the 21st at the
close of trade.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: they loved this country
and they chose to serve it and served it well. They had a mission, and
they believed in it. They knew the danger, and they accepted it. They
didn`t simply embrace the American ideal; they lived it. They embodied it,
the courage, the hope, and, yes, the idealism, that fundamental American
belief that we can leave this world a little better than before.

That`s who they were, and that`s who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Obama today, of course, at the ceremony to mark the
transfer of remains for the four Americans killed in Libya this week. It
ended a week in which the eyes of the world were on the president.

Well, let`s listen to more of that amazing ceremony this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The flag they served under now carries them home. May God
bless the memory of these men who laid down their lives for us all.

May God watch over your families and all who loved them, and may God
bless these United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, there was a moment in American history right there.

Last week, when Obama spoke at the Democratic National Committee (sic)
down in Charlotte, he said, "I am the president." Well, this week, he
showed what it means to be president.

Willie Brown is the former San Francisco mayor, of course, and Erin
McPike is a reporter for RealClearPolitics.

I was so proud of this country right then, Mayor, because there you
saw two people that had been political adversaries. The wonderful moment
when the secretary of state reached over to grab his hand after those
remarks, it is something else. I am a sentimentalist, I will admit it, but
I can`t think of a better way to celebrate our Americanism than the way we
did it just then.

Your thoughts.

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Well, he certainly
did demonstrate in this particular crisis that he is in fact what he said
he was in Charlotte, and that is: I am the president.

And he did so with absolutely no degree of malice. He indicated very
clearly, with a great degree of pride that he represents all of us and, in
his words, we are part of it.

MATTHEWS: I like the secretary of state. And I was looking at her as
she was so somber and she was shaking her head affirmatively for everything
the president -- that was one of her people.

That`s a Foreign Service officer, career Foreign Service. Those are
the people she sends into the field, gives their missions to them, and
knows what the risks are when she gives them.

ERIN MCPIKE, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, this might be the moment that
Hillary Clinton crossed the threshold of looking like a potential commander
in chief.

Remember,back in 2003, when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq,
she gathered her Senate staff in her office and explained why she did that.
That was about appearing like a potential commander in chief. This -- if
she runs for president in 2006 likely will be the moment that we said that
she crossed the threshold and actually is that potential commander in
chief.

MATTHEWS: Well, she also spoke, the secretary of state, at that
transfer, at that ceremony out there, and introduced the president.

Let`s listen to Secretary Clinton at the moment when Chris Stevens` body
was brought back with the other three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Now let me have the great honor
of introducing someone who came to the State Department earlier this week
to grieve with us, he well understands and values the work that these men
were doing for our country -- the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Secretary Clinton also had strong words for the
terrorists. This is the tough part. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Their sacrifice will
never be forgotten. We will bring to justice those who took them from us.
We will stand fast against the violence on our diplomatic missions. We
will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving
overseas, whether that means increasing security at the diplomatic posts,
working with host countries which have an obligation to provide security,
and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans.

CLINTON: The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia did not
trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. Reasonable
people and responsible leaders in these countries need to do everything
they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these
violent acts.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MATTHEWS: Mayor, I was in Charlotte surrounded by a crowd when the
president spoke I thought powerful words at the convention in accepting
nomination for re-election. He said, "I am the president." I thought
those were words of many meanings. How did you read them?

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER SENA FRANCISCO MAYOR: Well, I think he was
certain for the benefit of the crowd on the other side that he is in fact
in charge. And believe me -- if he is in charge, he is going to exercise
100 percent of the powers of the presidency on behalf of all citizens. He
conveyed that in the most direct way. He conveyed that as evidence of
strength, and that`s how I read it.

MATTHEWS: I read it something like that. Well, how did you read it?
Because it seems apt for what we saw this week. He has a role to play, a
grownup role, where the other guys basically a candidate with a couple of
flacks around him, coming up with sharp lines, but no responsibility.

MCPIKE: It`s about two things. One, it was about rallying Americans
behind him because we`re supposed to feel patriotic about the president of
the United States, that`s what we have been taught.

The other thing it was about was getting inside Mitt Romney`s head.
We will see a lot of mind games going on between the two.

MATTHEWS: Explain. That`s interesting.

MCPIKE: Mitt Romney and President Obama don`t seem to have much
respect for each other. Mitt Romney clearly has, you know, some issue with
it because President Obama won in 2008 and he didn`t become the nominee.
They will be getting in each other`s heads going into the debates. We sure
will see a lot of these mind games in the debates next month.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I thought the decision by Romney to run for
president, even as the president hadn`t been inaugurated, Mayor, showed
disdain. I don`t want to get into this too much on this head on this, I
don`t like the look of it, but he seemed to think this guy can be beat by
me. I am going to beat him even though I am not a first rate politician, I
can beat this guy.

There`s certain, struck me as -- well, an arrogant point of view,
already gearing up his campaign. Do you have any thoughts on that? I
thought Romney still has that arrogance.

BROWN: Let me tell you, I think that Romney and many of the
Republicans from the day Mr. Obama was elected did not believe he should be
the president of these United States. They set about from the moment of
his inauguration to figure out how to undo that. And they have lulled
themselves and convinced themselves that they are totally and completely
right. They just can`t seem the American public to follow suit.

I`ve got a message for Mitt Romney. I wouldn`t do any head games
with Barack Obama. I don`t think he is smart enough. I don`t think he is
clever enough. And clearly has no strength about him as all.

Obama will rise to the occasion, and be the number one draft choice
he`s always been.

MATTHEWS: You`re the best. Thanks so much, Willie Brown, former
speaker of the assembly in California, great mayor of San Francisco.
You`re so good on this.

Anyway, thank you, Erin McPike.

And we`ll be right back.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We mentioned President Obama`s sizable lead in Ohio,
Florida, and Virginia. Among likely voters, he leads Romney in Ohio by
seven, in Florida by five, in Virginia by five.

But when you go inside the numbers to the right direction/wrong track
question, it shows that people are more optimistic, although more say the
country is on the wrong track. The gap is narrowing, however. In Florida,
42 percent of registered voters say the country is headed in the right
direction, 52 percent saying the country in the wrong direction, a 10-point
gap. But the gap has been narrowed, and that`s important, and
significantly since May. Back then, just 39 percent said right direction,
37 percent wrong direction.

Same trend in Virginia, positive again, 42 percent say right
direction, 52 percent wrong direction. The gap here again, half what it
was in May.

In Ohio, the state many say could decide this election, same trend
applies. Right direction is now 44 percent, 51 percent say wrong
direction. But again, it is narrowed. That`s half the gap that existed in
may when 41 percent said right direction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

It`s called America`s newspaper from the East to West Coast content
made famous 30 years ago for its ubiquitous presence in hotel rooms,
airport lounges and subway stops. Today marks the start of "USA Today`s"
redesigned effort with a newspaper.

Look at it -- it looks like a Web site, and a new Web site that looks
like an iPad app. Could the same newspaper that was once ridiculed for its
info graphics like its weather page be ahead of the curb and again, and how
does an establishment media outlet like "USA Today" keep up with the minute
to minute news cycle, especially in this heated election cycle?

Anyway, with me is Larry Kramer, the publisher of "USA Today" and my
old friend who got me started in newspapers. Thank you, Larry, for that
and for coming on tonight.

LARRY KRAMER, USA TODAY KRAMER: You`re welcome, Chris.

MATTHEWS: You know, one thing about this newspaper, when you look at
it, look it up, I`m going to hold it up here, it looks totally different.
You have the date in a new digital fashion. It doesn`t have this old
newspaper thing on it, "USA Today". And what else? What`s new?

KRAMER: There`s a lot different about it, there`s a ton. The logo,
you see that blue ball?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KRAMER: We left it clean today, but starting tomorrow, you`re going
to start to see things in it. We`re actually programming it. It`s the
first living logo. And the news department is going to program like it
does the whole paper.

If you go back in some of the sections, you see the things that
represent stories in the logo.

MATTHEWS: I keep thinking about how people in the political game,
the way I used to do the weekly`s wires. And I would always say, who do I
have to flack? The networks, the weeklies, the wires, the weekly
magazines? I think if I got "Time", "Newsweek," CBS, NBC, CBS, and I got
"The New York Times," "The Washington Post," and "The L.A. Times" and the
"Wall Street Journal" -- I had it covered.

How do politicians look at your paper nor or any paper in getting
your message across?

KRAMER: They love us. We represent America to them. We really --
this is a very populist newspaper. People out in the country love us.
They love us in Ohio. All those states you`re talking about.

MATTHEWS: No jobs --

KRAMER: It`s easy to read. No, but they love the content. We
really do -- we write politics for voters, not for the politicians. You
know, "The Times," "The Journal" --

MATTHEWS: Do you have a slant at all?

KRAMER: No. We do have opinions, strong opinions, but the public
will tell you that we`re totally unbiased because when we go -- when we do
an editorial, we go out and find somebody who thinks exactly the opposite
and get them to write right next to them, we run both opinions.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about covering this campaign and how you
do it.

Tip O`Neill, my old boss, used to read this newspaper. I`d come into
work with him sometimes and he`d be in the front of the car reading the
sports because you`re the only newspaper in the country that has delayed
sports.

KRAMER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: The Phillies could be playing San Diego, or somebody or
San Francisco and it would be in the late game. How do you do it? What`s
your deadline? A few hours ago?

KRAMER: I`ve got to tell you -- that`s changed a lot from those
days. That`s what I loved about the paper then, too. But the world of
content has changed. A lot of it is digital.

I used to get into a hotel room and love the fact that I can read
four paragraphs of the Giants game in Cincinnati, right?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KRAMER: Now, I`m watching the Giants game on my iPad. So it`s not
that important to me to get you know, to get that little summary and just a
little bit a few facts about that other game. We have to get -- we still
have to give them more interesting --

MATTHEWS: OK. This news -- we always say 24/7 news cycle. Obama
takes his shot, Romney takes his shot, back and forth. What`s that going
to be like the next few months?

KRAMER: It`s going to be all over. We`re going to have it on
digital as soon as it happens. An hour later, we`re going to have a lot of
commentary on it and two hours later, we`re going to have a deeper story
with more response and then in the paper even bigger with more context,
with more -- you know, we really need to take each of these different
formats we publish in and if you have a cell phone on you, you want to know
if something important just happened. You`re not going to want to read 40
inches on it but you want to know that it happened.

And then you want to know if somebody important said something about
it. And we have to deliver you those things on each platform. We have to
be on good on each as we are in the paper.

MATTHEWS: It used to be there were a couple of reporters, like David
Broder of "The Washington Post," or Johnny Apple of the "New York Times,"
where they would say, this guy matters, this woman is a good person, take a
look at them -- and that mattered. Are there any more --

KRAMER: That`s news.

MATTHEWS: Are there any more gatekeepers?

KRAMER: Sure. Actually, the people want that. In today`s
journalism, people like that.

MATTHEWS: I agree. You know why people watch this show? They want
to know what I think.

KRAMER: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Our reporters have to give them more running room. We`re
bringing on more pronounced voices. Our new media columnist is Michael
Wolff who, as you know, has an opinion or two and we`re bringing on others
and we`re giving some of our existing reporters, like Susan Page, who are
terrific, more running room to be out there to tell the story.

MATTHEWS: What was the most important news event in 1987?

KRAMER: I have no idea.

MATTHEWS: You hired me.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Anyway, "San Francisco Examiner," dailies (ph). Thank
you, Larry Kramer. It`s important news story to me.

When we return, let me finish with America`s leaders coming together.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I think something fine is happening with this leadership. It is
holding together, getting stronger -- the bonds of our leaders are getting
warmer, closer. I watched bill Clinton give the speech of his life, saw
the impact in a new polling that shows greater confidence in the economy, a
confidence born of knowing a little more about what`s been happening, which
should give hope for improvement.

I watched Secretary Clinton with President Obama today out of Andrews
Air Force Base honoring Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in
Benghazi. That moving scene is America at our best honoring our fellow
citizens, especially those who served our country, as individuals and
public servants worthy of personal reverence.

What a contrast with the ratty politics being played on the other
side, this dirt ball attack that never seems to end on this president`s
birth in this country, this relentless effort to paint him as the other,
someone who snuck in the country, someone who pals around with terrorists,
who sympathizes with the attackers, who gets his policies from overseas.

I would like to hope when they have to judge a president holding up
our country`s honor and saluting the troops as individuals, not simply as
force levels, they will see the merit in the president here. They will see
in contrast the kind of dirt ball politics that tarnishes our democracy.
And it`s certainly not the kind our uniform men and women are fighting and
risking all to protect.

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

Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

More on TODAY.com

  1. Ariana Grande brings her ‘Everything,' huge crowd to TODAY plaza

    When you’ve got pop’s reigning princess making a royal visit to your show, what do you do? In the case of TODAY Friday, you just hand over the keys to the kingdom.

    8/29/2014 12:46:14 PM +00:00 2014-08-29T12:46:14
  2. video Pop star performs her No. 1 hit, ‘Problem’

    video The singer performs her hit tune on the TODAY plaza. Her second album, “My Everything,” is already No. 1 on iTunes in 80 countries.

    8/29/2014 1:48:20 PM +00:00 2014-08-29T13:48:20
  3. Ariana Grande on how she played off her most embarrassing on-stage moment

    Reigning princess of pop Ariana Grande exudes confidence on stage these days, but she says that wasn't always the case. Watch the video to find out how Grande played off a rocky moment during a performance.

    8/29/2014 4:35:57 PM +00:00 2014-08-29T16:35:57
  4. Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images
  1. Courtesy of Hockley family

    Sandy Hook mom: Shootings changed how we feel about going back to school

    8/29/2014 1:02:40 PM +00:00 2014-08-29T13:02:40
  1. Courtesy Andreas Kleinke

    'Brand new mini': Former Apple employee's baby announcement is charming

    8/29/2014 4:28:59 PM +00:00 2014-08-29T16:28:59