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updated 9/19/2012 12:26:19 PM ET 2012-09-19T16:26:19

HARDBALL
September 18, 2012

Guests: Joe Klein, James Carter, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Chait

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL HOST: Caught.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" tonight with (SINGING), If I were a rich man, yubbie,
dibbie, dibbie, dibbie, dibbie, dibbie, dibbie, dum --

Dumb. It`s one thing to be rich and have the majority of voters
convinced you`re out to help the rich. Is there anything dumber, though,
than to be caught pandering to your fellow rich? Hey, buddy, give me
$50,000, I`ll give you dinner and tell you what I really think.

And what does Mitt Romney really think about that 47 percent out
there, that ones who`ll never catch at a party like -- you`ll never catch
at a party like this? He called them a bunch of freeloaders who want
breakfast in bed, who want the people at the 50K dinners to foot the bill.

Well, tonight, the morning after, and yes, we`ve got more tapes of
that infamous dinner to remember, that toney get-together where the
Republican nominee for president of the United States shared his deepest
beliefs about the two kinds of people in this country, those who give, like
him, and those who take and loaf and vote for Obama.

Joining me now is David Corn with "Mother Jones," who`s the author of
"Showdown," which is out in paperback right now. Also, we have New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann, Mr. "Game Change."

Gentlemen, we have new tape to show you from that May fund-raiser,
thanks to David Corn, including what Romney said about the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

But before we get to that, here`s that shocking tape from Romney
talking about the 47 percent of Americans who he says are definitely not
voting for -- are definitely voting for Obama, not for him. He was
answering a question from a donor, apparently. The tape was first posted
by the great "Mother Jones" magazine.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There are 47
percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what, all
right? There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon
government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government
has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they`re entitled to
health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.

But that`s -- it`s and entitlement and the government should give it
to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 (INAUDIBLE) he starts off
with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of
Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn`t connect.
He`ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. That`s what they
sell every four years.

And so my job is not to worry about those people. I`ll never convince
them that they should take personal responsibility and care for lives.
What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are
independents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, David, congratulations on getting this out to the
public because we often think, What does a politician really believe? And
maybe we don`t hear it here, but pretty close. Behind closed doors, there
he is pandering to a bunch of rich people, basically referring to the non-
rich, to the people in the bottom 50 percent of the country -- the 47
percent, to be precise -- as bums, loafers, shirkers, the people that
really don`t carry their load but expect the rich to give them breakfast in
bed, effectively.

I mean, I think it`s a telling statement. And my only question to
you, since you unearthed this, is he saying, This is what I believe, or is
this a high pander to the rich, or both?

DAVID CORN, "MOTHER JONES," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t
see any reason why it can`t be both. I mean, if you watch the tape, as we
just did, you know, he looks very convincing, at least to me. You know, he
said last night in response to the tape that he was speaking off the cuff.
Usually, when you speak off the cuff, you say what`s in your heart, what
you really mean. It means not being scripted. And so this didn`t sound
like a scripted remark to pander to people who had paid $50,000 a plate to
see him.

I mean, there are a lot of ways to talk about this issue of whether
we`re going to have a government-centered society, whether entitlements go
too far and actually encourage people not to work. There are policy issues
and a way to describe them, but he was sort of brazen in how sweeping his
remarks were, that these people just don`t believe in personal
responsibility, that the 47 percent of Americans who voted for Barack Obama
don`t have any sense of working for themselves.

And that seemed to me to be the tell. I mean, he didn`t have to go
this far to pander to these people, but it was like, You and I, we`re the
strivers, we make our own success, and we`re up against, you know, a
population full of parasitic moochers.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: And that`s what this campaign is going to be about. And we
have to be --

MATTHEWS: You know, it reminded me --

CORN: -- about, and --

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: -- 5 to 10 percent to be on our side in order to win.

MATTHEWS: I like the book, "The Fountainhead." But that was the
whole idea behind it. There was the looters out there, those people who
didn`t do anything.

Let me go to you, John Heilemann. This question about -- I mean, he
really did sound like, you know, a Tory more than a Republican, you know, a
real elitist, like, these people, these bums, these workers, you know, one
of these old stories you used to hear about the New York Yacht Club, where
they -- I love the working man, I love to see them work, that kind of
stuff.

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well,
it`s -- I mean, look, there are Tories, you know, Margaret Thatcher, you
know, the shopkeeper`s daughter, you know, who wanted to try to lift the
poor up. I think there`s the analysis he`s doing of society, of the
economy.

But the thing to me that`s more troubling is this notion that not only
is he analyzing and saying this is what this category of people are like,
but he`s saying, I can`t help them, I can`t do anything for them, there`s
no reason for me to try to talk to them, right?

You -- if you`re going to be -- this is the Obama campaign has made
this point, but if you`re going to be president of the United States,
you`re the president of all the people, not just the ones who vote for you,
not just the ones who are of your class, not just the ones you identify
with. You`re the president of everybody.

And his attitude was, you know, There`s nothing I can do about those
people, so my campaign`s going to just ignore them because of the way they
are. I think that`s the most troubling thing about it.

And you know, the right has pointed out all day long -- and you
mentioned in the lead-in to this -- that this is like President Obama with
the comment that he made in 2008 at the fund-raiser in San Francisco about
people -- bitter people clinging to their guns and religion.

The really huge difference was when President Obama said that, it was
also condescending and it was also contemptuous and it cost him in the
Pennsylvania primary, in the West Virginia primary, in a lot of primaries
with white working-class voters -- but when he made the comment, if you
look at the whole quote, he says, This is the way these people are, but
that doesn`t mean I`m not going to go campaign for their votes.

He says, There are some people like that who are going to be less
amenable to my appeal than they would otherwise be, but I got to still go
in there and fight for those votes. I got to go stand in front of them and
ask them for their vote.

That`s exactly the opposite of what Romney was saying. Romney`s
saying, These people aren`t going to like me, so I`m just going to forget
about them.

MATTHEWS: Yes, it was really dismissive. Anyway, "The Weekly
Standard`s," Bill Kristol, who`s, of course, a conservative, wrote,
"Romney`s comments were stupid and arrogant."

And in a scathing column in "The New York Times" today, conservative
David Brooks, a really smart guy, wrote, quote, "As a description of
America today, Romney`s comment is a country club fantasy. It`s what self-
satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative
view people have about Romney."

Now, the headline of that column was "Thurston Howell Romney,"
referring to the millionaire on "Gilligan`s Island." Just to remind you,
here`s the guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole thing`s almost (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understand the principle involved. After all,
you`re a man of ethics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You sure know how to cut a man, don`t you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, I hereby officially place myself under
hut arrest!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thurston, you`re a convict! Oh!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lovey, I`ve been framed. I`ll appeal. I`ll take
it to the Supreme Court. I`ll do even higher, the rules committee of the
Newport Country Club!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thurston Howell, I forgot him, but you know, he`s a
caricature, but the words could have been spoken by him at that Boca Raton
fund-raiser, 50K to get in the door, and everybody talking like him, in
effect, the poor and the democracy being some sort of degrading experience
they have to go through.

CORN: Yes, well, it sounded like, you know, Mitt Romney was saying,
My goodness, you know, half the public are parasites trying to live off us,
and the only way we can, you know, get into power is to convince 5 percent
of those independents to side with us and protect us from the loopton (ph)
masses, and then, you know, that`s what this is all about.

It was really -- you know, it was very striking in how he`s defining
this campaign as a clash between the freeloaders and those of us in this
room who have strived on our own and risen on the basis of our own merit.
Elsewhere in the tape, he angrily, you know, says, you know, I didn`t
inherit nothing. You know, like, I made everything.

MATTHEWS: Give me a break.

CORN: You know, he has this view once again that he built that, he
built it all by himself, and there are people out there trying to take what
he built.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at the Senate candidate out of
Connecticut. You know when people start to leave the ship, things are in
trouble. Here`s Linda McMahon, who wants to win in Connecticut, knowing
that her candidate for president, Mitt Romney, is unlikely to win in
Connecticut, but she wants to separate herself from his comments.

Quote, "I disagree with Governor Romney`s insinuation that 47 percent
of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for
their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government
are not in that situation because they want to be."

And Scott Brown today also distanced himself from Romney, quote --
(INAUDIBLE) e-mailed this out to "The Hill" magazine. "That`s not the way
I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know
that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in."

There you have it. I mean, you know what`s going on here. People
want to win these elections and could well win, like Linda McMahon and
certainly Scott Brown, the incumbent senator, they don`t want to be on the
ship, the Good Ship Lollipop of Mitt Romney.

HEILEMANN: No. And you know, this is the question I`ve -- I`ve been
asking this question since last week with his response to Libya. There is
-- the Republican establishment is watching this race very closely, elected
officials, the consultant class, financial people. They`re looking at it
and they want to know, Is this guy in a downward spiral?

The polls are still close. Mitt Romney can still win this race. But
if you remember back in 1996, Chris, there came a point -- and it was a
long way before election day -- when the Republican Party said, We`re done
with Bob Dole. He`s not going to win this race. We got to take care of
ourselves. It was --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- we`re not there yet.

HEILEMANN: No, we`re not there yet. We`re not there yet. We`re not
there yet. But these -- the fact of what`s happened over the course --
this is why all of this is in context. It`s two horrific weeks, and it
just raises the stakes --

MATTHEWS: OK --

HEILEMANN: -- for Romney in the debates because if he does not win
decisively in that first debate, we could be at that point.

MATTHEWS: One last pander in this to the rich and the people down
there with right-wing views, perhaps. David, you`ve got a piece of tape --
let`s talk -- well, let`s look at another piece of tape. This is part of
the Romney speech down there to those wealthy people. It`s about
Palestinians and what interests whatever (ph) they have in (INAUDIBLE) It`s
a knock on the Palestinians. No big politics there, but he seems to
suggest there`s no chance of a two-state solution, which has been the
policy of both our parties for years now.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: These are problems, and they`re very hard to solve, all
right? And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for
political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,
and these thorny issues. And I say, there`s just no way.

And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you
can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is
going to remain an unsolved problem.

I mean, we live with that in China and Taiwan, all right? We have --
we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And
we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow,
something will happen and resolve it. We don`t go to war to try and
resolve it imminently.

On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I
won`t mention which one it was. But this individual said to me, You know,
I think there`s a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and
the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, Really? And you
know, his answer was, Yes, I think there`s some prospect. And I -- and I
didn`t delve into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I don`t know, what did you think of that tape,
the part you thought the most fascinating, David?

CORN: I think there are three things that that clip show us. First,
Romney has said publicly that he believes in a two-state solution. I guess
that`s not true. He really strikes me, from watching the whole tape, that
he doesn`t believe a two-state solution is possible, so he`s proposing a
radical departure from U.S. administration policy since the Clinton years
and through the Bush and Obama years.

Two, you know, do we want to have that change in policy? He believes
that there`s not really an active way of pursuing peace. He just wants to
kick the ball down the field. I mean, I don`t know if that`s the right
analogy here --

MATTHEWS: That sounds like Bibi, though, to be honest with you. I`m
not knocking Bibi, but that is his policy right now. He does seem to say,
Don`t even get close to a deal. They`re not ready for a deal and we`re not
ready.

CORN: But also, he takes the Palestinians and he lops -- you know, he
lumps them into one mindset. All Palestinians don`t want peace, they want
to destroy Israel. That`s certainly not the case. And so it shows he
doesn`t really have a good grasp of the reality on the ground, and he wants
to have a radical departure from policy without admitting that in public.

MATTHEWS: I think he said before that the Palestinians are part of
the 47 percent, in his mind, anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN: At the very end of it, he says a former secretary of state
called him and said a deal might be possible after the election. He says,
I didn`t delve into it.

MATTHEWS: OK --

HEILEMANN: Why not?

CORN: No curiosity.

HEILEMANN: Why not?

MATTHEWS: Thank you, John, and thank you, David. What an exciting
time in politics.

Coming up, much more on the Romney tape. Who are those 47 percent who
Mitt Romney says will never be convinced to take personal responsibility
for their lives? A lot of Romney voters may be very surprised to learn
he`s talking about them.

Also, Romney`s been trying to turn President Obama into some kind of
cartoon version of Jimmy Carter. Well, guess who helped leak that Romney
video to our friend David Corn? Jimmy Carter IV, the president`s grandson.
He`s going to be with us tonight.

Plus, some desperate Republicans are trying to equate the Romney tape
with candidate Barack Obama`s "guns and religion" remark four years ago,
but there`s a huge difference between the two, and the difference is Barack
Obama wanted their votes.

And "Let Me Finish" with a rare look at the Mitt Romney we heard on
that tape. It`s the Mitt Romney who actually said what he thinks.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: New poll numbers now show that the key Senate race in
Massachusetts, also the crucial battleground state in Virginia, are getting
exciting. Let`s check the "Scoreboard."

We start in Virginia, where a new "Washington Post" poll shows
President Obama with an 8-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters.
That`s 52 to 44. Wow.

And now to Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren is enjoying a bounce
from the Democratic national convention. According to a new Suffolk poll,
Warren`s up by 4 now over incumbent Republican senator Scott Brown. That`s
the third poll this week that shows Warren in the lead. Warren spoke on
the final night of the Democratic convention just before President Obama.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. So who are that 47 percent of
people Mitt Romney says he`ll never convince them they should, quote, "take
personal responsibility and care for their lives"?

Well, in a scathing column today, "New York Times" columnist --
conservative columnist David Brooks asked the same question and wonders,
"Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the VA" -- the Veterans
Administration -- "Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is
it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare?"

And these charts from the Tax Policy Center show just who that 47
percent is. These are the people that don`t pay federal income tax. In
2011, 46.4 percent of households paid no federal income tax, so Romney is
correct there.

Now let`s zero in on just what that group is. Turns out that nearly
two thirds of that 46 percent who paid no federal income tax did pay
federal payroll taxes. Now, what about the people who paid neither federal
income tax nor payroll tax? Well, of that small group, 10 percent are
elderly and 7 percent are non-elderly earning under $20,000 a year.

So the truth is, when Romney says 47 percent are non-taxpaying
freeloaders, he`s wrong. And many of those he considers freeloaders,
specifically retirees and white working-class voters, fit the Romney voter
profile.

Ezra Klein is a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a policy
analyst for MSNBC. Joe Klein writes for "Time" magazine.

Ezra, excellent work today. Just to break this out and to show that
of the people who don`t pay federal income tax, two thirds do pay payroll
tax and two thirds of the other one third are basically retirees who are
benefiting from having worked their whole lives, paid taxes their whole
lives, and now are in retirement.

What`s wrong with that? Isn`t that the American compact itself?

EZRA KLEIN, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Not only is
there nothing particularly wrong with it, but Mitt Romney`s policies show
he doesn`t think there`s anything wrong with it, either.

Romney says that his tax plan won`t raise taxes on anybody making less
than $200,000, though there are actually some tax increases hidden in there
for people making very little because some stimulus tax breaks expire. And
he says that he won`t touch any Medicare or Social Security benefits for
the current generation of retirees. So he`s saying, essentially, that he
wants to keep this status quo exactly as it is.

One other thing on this. This trick that has been played in the tax
conversation, where we keep saying federal income taxes -- federal income
taxes are the part of the tax code that is progressive. They`re the part
of the tax code that tends to focus in on the richer -- on richer
Americans. Payroll taxes are also federal taxes, and they are --

MATTHEWS: And they`re regressive.

E. KLEIN: -- more regressive. People don`t pay them above
$100,000. So if you make a million dollars, you don`t pay payroll taxes on
9 out of 10 --

MATTHEWS: So give me your favorite example of the unfairness of that.

E. KLEIN: -- dollars of income.

MATTHEWS: Like, if you pay a payroll tax because you`re making like
$20,000 a year or $25,000 a year, but you`re not paying any big income tax,
you`re paying 15.3 percent.

KLEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: What`s Romney paying?

KLEIN: He`s paying 13.9 percent, exactly.

So, if you`re somebody who makes $85,000, you`re paying payroll taxes
on all of that. You`re paying a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney is,
easily. And this idea that -- it`s a way of making the tax code look like
the rich are paying all of it in order to justify further tax cuts for the
rich. That is the policy trick being played here.

MATTHEWS: Joe Klein, well, Thurston Howell talk like we have been
getting here, the elite talking to the other elite, will that sell with
Archie Bunker? Will that sell with a guy killing himself make $20,000 or
$30,000 a year and killing himself to get -- maybe two jobs to get the
income?

Is he going to like that kind of talk, that everybody who is not
making a lot of money is a bum?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": One of the biggest problems Romney has
is that he`s only paying 14 percent.

And when you talk to working people out in the country, they`re
amazed. They`re paying a lot more than that. And as we just -- as Ezra
demonstrated -- by the way, we`re not related.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Here he is dumping -- there are a lot of Kleins out there.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But here he is dumping on the people who make -- who pay
more than he does.

J. KLEIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

This guy is getting one of the biggest tax boondoggle breaks in the
American tax code, which is that his -- you know, his income is taxed at
the capital gains rate, rather than at the earned income rate.

And so who are all these fat cats he`s talking to? They are people
who are making money off of oil subsidies, cotton subsidies, sugar
subsidies, all these other things that are these goodies that are in the
tax code for rich people.

MATTHEWS: Ezra, I know you`re not a political person, but I`m going
to ask you a question. Doesn`t it seem odd to you that this guy is down
there giving an exposition on tax structure and who is paying and who is
not and won`t release his own returns? Isn`t that odd?

E. KLEIN: I do think it`s odd. And I think it`s even odder that he`s
somebody who won`t release the details of his tax policy plan.

I mean, it`s almost one thing to say I`m not going to tell what you I
have paid in the past. It`s a whole other thing to go to America and say
make me president, but I`m not going to tell you what you`re going to pay
in the future.

That to me is the great --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. I think there`s a -- OK, I think there`s a theme to
this campaign. It`s a combination what he says in backrooms to rich people
to give him money and what he puts on the air.

Let`s look at this discredited Romney welfare ad and how it fits into
what we`re hearing from Boca Raton at that fund-raiser. It`s evidence I
believe of a Romney strategy described at the fund-raiser very much like
this, only this is the actual way they put it on the tube.

Let`s listen to the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped
end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare, but on July 12,
President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping
work requirements.

Under Obama`s plan, you wouldn`t have to work and wouldn`t have to
train for a job. They just send you your welfare check, and welfare to
work goes back to being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the
work requirement, because it works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that ad is simply dishonest, of course. Work
requirements were not eliminated. When the false welfare ads made news
"USA Today" reported last month -- quote -- "Romney defends the welfare ads
as accurate, accusing Obama of offering state waivers as a political
calculation designed to -- quote -- `shore up his base for the election.`"

J. KLEIN: He asked for one of those.

MATTHEWS: So, not only he has bragged to rich people about the people
who want breakfast in bed and don`t want to work. There, he runs an ad
saying Obama is out there giving them welfare without work, checks without
work, and also he`s doing it to get his voters out.

You can`t be more base than that.

J. KLEIN: Well, no. What you have here is a really demented
campaign.

They`re running against an imaginary version of Barack Obama, this --

MATTHEWS: Socialist.

J. KLEIN: -- radical, Muslim, socialist, and now they have invented
this imaginary electorate of -- 47 percent of whom are moochers.

I mean, this does not stand the test of reality, but it does stand the
test of FOX News and Rush Limbaugh, their version of reality, which isn`t
truthful.

MATTHEWS: Ezra, before you came along -- and you`re about the best in
the business in analyzing numbers right now that we argue about, because
you do numberize them and numerize them -- it used to be you would ask
people, how much money is this government wasting in foreign aid? And then
people would say, oh, about 30 percent of the GDP.

They would -- how much are we spending on welfare? Oh, about 50
percent. Finally, because you`re out there, we`re cutting through that.
So guys like Romney can`t go even before the rich guys and lie to them or
push untruths at them, because there are actual numbers, right?

E. KLEIN: Yes. Well, hopefully. We try.

But one thing -- Joe would probably know the story even better than I
do. But these tax breaks that are taking people`s federal income tax
liability away, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit, this
was part of the way we got from -- away from welfare and towards workfare.

(CROSSTALK)

E. KLEIN: These are work-incentivizing changes to the tax code. And
one thing Clinton and the Republicans did in the `90s and the Democrats did
in the `90s was move away from spending money on welfare, move towards
spending on work.

Now Mitt Romney comes along and says the effect of that is bad and
it`s made us moochers. It`s really just the opposite. These are work-
incentivizing tax cuts.

MATTHEWS: I agree. And those were the best neo-liberal ideas in that
period.

Anyway, thank you so much, Ezra Klein.

And thank you, Joe Klein.

Up next: The video of Romney was unearthed by James Carter IV,
grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who says he doesn`t like Romney
and the Republicans knocking his grandpa. I can understand that. He is
going to join us to talk about how he unearthed this wonderful little sugar
plum about Mitt`s deepest thoughts.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, that hidden camera video of Mitt Romney telling
wealthy donors what he really thinks about Obama supporters has shaken up
the campaign, and it might have remained in obscurity -- in obscurity had a
self-described opposition researcher from Georgia not brought it to light.

How fitting that that researcher in Georgia, that man in question is
the grandson of Democratic stalwart and former President Jimmy Carter, a
frequent target of Mitt Romney`s attacks?

With me now is James Carter IV.

Thank you, James, for coming on. It`s an honor to have on such a good
researcher and such a good reporter.

First of all, is your grandfather watching right now?

JAMES CARTER IV, OPPOSITION RESEARCHER: I hope so.

MATTHEWS: Good.

Nice to see you, Mr. President. Thank you for letting me be one of
your people.

Anyway, let`s go to this thing. How did you get this video, roughly?
How did you come up with it?

CARTER: Well, roughly, I found a piece of the longer video during a
regular -- like a routine search on YouTube that I do, and tracked it down
to its source, and talked them into giving it up.

MATTHEWS: The people who study these use of cell phones and other
technologies say it looks like it was mounted on something off to the side
of the stage there. You see the angle from the left looking at the
speaker, Mitt Romney.

Do you have any idea how it was put there without detection?

CARTER: I don`t, no.

MATTHEWS: Did the person who gave it to you tell you why they gave it
to you, why they put it out?

CARTER: Well, they thought that some of the things that Romney was
saying in the video needed to be heard by a wider audience.

MATTHEWS: Is it fair to assume that the person who gave you this tape
was not one of the 50,000 contributors -- $50,000 contributors?

CARTER: I think it`s probably fair to assume that.

MATTHEWS: Yes, because I was thinking it might be somebody who is the
caterer, because why else would they be in the room, except they are
working there or they`re paying to be there.

That`s a reasonable assumption. But you don`t have to go any further
on that.

Let me ask you about your feelings about this and what most -- I think
most journalism is driven by some kind of drive. It can be ambition. It
can be the truth. It can be an attitude about some of the people you
cover.

What was your attitude about getting this tape into the hands of David
Corn, who is a liberal writer, and you figured he would get it out?

CARTER: Well, I`m a partisan Democrat, and my goal was to get
Democrats elected, not just at the presidential level, but at -- to all
offices.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of Mitt Romney?

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: I don`t know Mitt Romney. I think that`s part of the
problem.

MATTHEWS: Do you resent the fact he`s been dumping on your grandpa?

CARTER: I -- that is not something that I think favorably of him for,
definitely.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I can understand that.

James, thank you for coming on the show tonight. I know you`re not
used to this. It`s great to have you on. It is a moment in the sun for
you, which you richly deserve.

Much more on the Romney tape ahead in the hour, including why
comparisons to Barack Obama`s, well, notorious guns and religion comments
from San Francisco years ago won`t hold up.

But up next, it`s unforced errors like this one by Romney that are one
reason President Obama has opened up a bit of a lead in this race. How
about five points? Let`s look at why the president is doing well right now
at seven weeks before Election Day.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TYLER MATHISEN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Tyler Mathisen with your CNBC
"Market Wrap."

Modest moves for stocks today, the Dow up a mere 11, the S&P down two,
and the Nasdaq was basically flat, losing one. Apple shares though powered
higher, closing above the $700-a-share mark, after crossing the $700
threshold Monday in after-hours trading.

Meanwhile, the federal -- Federal Express company, FedEx, fell about 3
percent. Its earning beat estimates, but it cut its fiscal 2013 profit
target. On the economic front, home builder sentiment rose to its highest
level in more than six years.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And I will tell you why. Our campaign has a
secret weapon, and that secret weapon is speaking right now in Tulsa,
Oklahoma.

Let`s take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hello. I`m Mitt Romney.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: And I understand the hardships facing ordinary
Americans. For example, this summer, one of my horses failed to medal at
the Olympics. So I know hardship.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was, of course, the fake
President Obama and the fake Mitt Romney on "Saturday Night Live" this
weekend.

But "SNL" was perhaps onto something.

Politico reported today Barack Obama is seemingly ahead of Mitt
Romney, even while voters aren`t happy with the economy or the direction of
the country much. In fact, the RealClearPolitics average of national polls
has Obama up by about three now. That`s the combined polling of all the
majors.

How is he doing it?

Let`s go to Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post," who is
covering Romney.

You know, one thing that I think about a lot is what changed in the
last month. And while the country looked at Libya and they looked at some
of the missteps he made in London, yes, yes, yes, but what grabbed a lot of
people I think in the center-left and center was the incredible speech by
Bill Clinton down in Charlotte.

Your thoughts about what that did to improve the situation for the
president.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": I think that`s right.

Bill Clinton made an effective case. The argument was essentially,
Democrats do it better. He laid out the case and said, over the last 50 or
so years, Democrats have done a better job creating -- a better job
creating jobs and growing the economy.

And I think people listened to that speech. It was certainly much
more well-received than Mitt Romney`s speech. You had Michelle Obama do
the same sort of talking about the Democratic brand, talking about Obama as
someone who had had a childhood that I think a lot of people could relate
to, her own childhood as well growing up on the South Side of Chicago.

So I think people looked at that convention and saw themselves in a
way that they didn`t look at the RNC, and there weren`t a lot of handles
into that convention in the way that I think the DNC was able to put on a
real tableau of different stories, different sorts of Americans. And I
think people really -- it really resonated with people.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I think Bill Clinton is able -- defending the
terrible situation Obama, the president, inherited when he walked in the
door, with everything plummeting, everything going down except the
unemployment rate.

It didn`t seem like whining when he said it, because he`s just saying,
look, my ally here had a tough break thrown at him.

Anyway, President Obama uses Bill Clinton in a new campaign add.
Let`s take a look at this and see how this is going to register based on
the numbers and how they`re moving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR: He keeps saying it.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president cannot tell
us that you`re better off today than when he took office.

NARRATOR: Well, here is where we were in 2008.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Worst financial collapse
since the Great Depression.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: American workers were laid off in numbers not seen
in over three decades.

NARRATOR: And here`s where we are today, 30 months of private sector
job growth, creating 4.6 million new jobs.

We`re not there yet, but the real question is, whose plan is better
for you?

The president`s plan asks millionaires to pay a little more to help
invest in a strong middle class, clean energy, and cut the deficit. Mitt
Romney`s plan? A new $250,000 tax break for multimillionaires, roll back
regulations on the banks that cratered the economy, and raise taxes on the
middle class.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to go
back to the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re not going back.
We are moving forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, I was thinking that the most powerful number that
came out in "The New York Times" poll this weekend was the number that
showed that 53 percent of the American people, Nia -- that`s a pretty good
majority -- believe that the primary goal of Mitt Romney is basically to
help the rich when he gets in there.

And then all this week, I`m just thinking how that puts the polish on
that car, because everybody is out there thinking, my God, that`s right,
look at him talk. Look. They caught him behind the scenes there.

HENDERSON: That`s right.

And you saw Democrats spend the entire summer making this case, all of
those Bain ads talking about Mitt Romney as an outsourcer. He, of course,
had those gaffes during the primary where he said he didn`t care about --
he wasn`t very concerned about the poor.

And you`re right. This only feeds that caricature. Mitt Romney has
very much participated in underscoring that with this last -- with this
last comment. And I also think he hasn`t done himself any good either
because he hasn`t been very detailed about his own policy. So that`s
allowed Democrats an opening to really paint him for themselves.

And it obviously has been a very negative picture that he hasn`t been
able to counteract very effectively.

MATTHEWS: What about this picture of him as Thurston Howell that
David Brooks, who is a conservative columnist, painted today in "The New
York Times"?

I mean, he didn`t write the headline, but somebody did and put it on
the top of his column, Thurston Howell Romney -- the notion of a guy that
not only is out for the rich but has no idea what the rest of the people
are about. And now, we`re learning the 47 percent of the country he`s
talking about, he doesn`t know anything about.

HENDERSON: That`s right. I think that`s what people will find most
disturbing is that his view of America didn`t really comport with what most
people think of America. We`re very hard working.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HENDERSON: You know, one of the most hardest working countries in
the world. And this idea that 50 percent of Americans are just waiting for
a government handout I think strikes most people as very disconcerting. I
think, again, Mitt Romney doesn`t very often have settings where he`s
around other people, where he`s talking to them on the stump. He doesn`t
go -- he doesn`t drop by delis very much and talk one-on-one with people.

And I think in that way, it contrasts very much with Obama who you do
see out there. He`s getting the bear hug from that guy, you know, he`s
joking with kids, and I think he`s done himself some good in that way.

I think Obama has also benefited from really embedding himself in pop
culture, right? I mean, he started this campaign, he was on Jay Leno, he`s
on ESPN. I think people have come to like him in that way. So, it`s been
very hard for Mitt Romney to really continue this caricature of President
Obama as an outsider who is a socialist and all these other sorts of ideas
that he`s picked up from the right wing because Obama comes across as a
likable guy.

MATTHEWS: Can I just make one point of an anecdotal fact? I got up
this morning to go to the doctor out of Rockville, Maryland. There is a
blue state, votes Democrat every single time. Your vote really doesn`t
matter that much because it`s going to be always going to be Democrat in
that state, I must say.

But I must tell you, when I see 1 million cars going to work at 7:30
in the morning I wonder who these lazy bums are. All these people going to
work at 7:30 in the morning, racing and waiting in line just to go to work
and they get back in line an d go back home at 5:00. Who is Romney talking
about?

Anyway, thank you very much, Nia-Malika Henderson --

HENDERSON: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: -- of the "Washington Post" which, of course, covers the
Maryland area.

Up next, back to the Romney tape and why it`s very important and
potentially much more damaging than Barack Obama`s "guns and religion"
comments four years ago that was also behind closed doors.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled on a lower court
decision upholding the state`s new voter photo ID law, saying more
information is needed about whether the law could disenfranchise minority
voters. And it`s a decision that could lead to an all out injunction
against that strict new law.

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams joins us now.

Pete, how can we read this? It seems confusing. What does it say,
this new ruling by the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, here is what
this is now about in requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls, the
legislature intended to make it easy for residents who don`t have a
driver`s license to get a voter ID card by showing only a minimal amount of
identification when they apply for one.

But the state agencies responsible for issuing these voter ID cards
are instead insisting on more rigorous proof of identity than this new law
actually requires. They`re demanding applicants have a birth certificate,
stamped with raised seal, a Social Security card and two other forms of
identification.

The state agencies say if they give the cards out on the more relaxed
basis spelled out in the new voter ID law, that would create a Homeland
Security problem because the cards with be used to board aircraft. So now
the state is coming up with a new voter ID card that won`t be good for
anything else to get around that problem.

So, today, the state Supreme Court instructed a judge to take another
crack at this case and find out whether the state actually will make it
more difficult to get one of these ID cards, Chris.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Pete Williams.

We`re going to be right back with more HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Some Romney defenders are saying the candidate`s caught on tape
comments, Romney`s caught on tape comments, are similar to President
Obama`s caught on tape comments back when he was a candidate, and he talked
about people clinging to their guns and religion back in 2008.

But as John Heilemann pointed out earlier in this show, there`s a big
difference. So, let`s listen again to what then-candidate Obama said to
supporters in 2008.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, 2008)

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You go into some of these
small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest,
the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing`s replaced them. And
they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration,
and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities
are going to regenerate and they have not.

So it`s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns,
or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren`t like them.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But it was what Obama says next that`s often let out of
these tapes. He encourages the supporters he`s addressing to reach out to
these voters and voters everywhere, not giving up on them, like Romney did,
but encouraging people to go out and win them over. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think what you`ll find is that people of every background,
there are going to be a mix of people, you can go into the toughest
neighborhood, working class lunch-pail folks, you`ll find Obama
enthusiasts, and you go into places where you think I`d be very strong and
people will just be skeptical.

The important thing is that you show up and you`re doing what you`re
doing.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Joining me right now is "New York" magazine`s Jonathan
Chait and "Huffington Post`s" Sam Stein.

Your view, both gentlemen -- Jonathan, first -- with what the
differences are and the similarities in those tapes.

JONATHAN CHAIT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Right. What Obama was trying to
say was that, yes, there`s a constituency that`s opposed to him and he
expressed it in a kind of condescending way that people don`t like and
understandably don`t like. But it was fundamentally an expression of
social solidarity. He was saying my policies will benefit these people.
We can explain it and we need to make the case, and if we make the case, I
think we can get some of them to come our way.

Romney`s was essentially saying my policies are not going to benefit
those people, so they`re never going to vote for us no matter what, which
is a kind of disturbing thing to say if you want to be president.

MATTHEWS: Yes, dismissing half the people.

Yes, your thoughts, Sam, on both sides -- what is similar and what is
dissimilar.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Well, Jonathan hits on an unimportant
note. One is sort of inclusive, where I`m trying to reach out to these
people that are -- just assuming they won`t be in your cause. Another
underlooked part of that famous bitter comment from Obama is that he
started of -- the premise of the question was, why aren`t people voting are
for you? It`s easy to say, OK, they don`t want to vote for the black man,
but it`s not racism that animates them.

So, he`s trying to dismiss the easy troupe, which is that, oh, they
won`t vote for me because I`m black, and then he went on to try to explain
it. We`re very much condescending details, but I think we got the
distinction between Romney and him.

You know, it could have been easy to say, they`re not voting for
racism. But he didn`t. He tried to explain it out and he ended in a heap
load of trouble.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right. I think he tried to talk to a very
well-off, secular people, I think it was Rosen Hill (ph) or somewhere, a
well-off neighborhood in San Francisco to try to explain the different
culture. But the problem I have with the Obama statement, I said so at the
time was, people don`t cling to religion any more than --

CHAIT: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Religion is what you cling to. You have to believe,
because you need it. And you believe in it. It`s your belief. It isn`t
something you hang onto just for, you know, safety`s sake in bad times.

I think he was saying "cling to" and the gun thing. People enjoy
hunting deer in Pennsylvania as much as he enjoys shooting hoops or playing
golf. I mean, that`s just a putdown, I thought. Jonathan, thoughts now.

CHAIT: No, I think that`s correct, although I think in the context
of what he was saying is he was clinging to those things as voting issues,
not as lifestyle habits. They cling to the practice of voting --

MATTHEWS: So they voted NRA candidates in and that kind of thing,
yes.

CHAIT: Yes, I don`t think he was saying they would give up their
guns or their religion if they had economic prosperity, but, you know, it
was very murky. He was speaking off the cuff.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, by the way, President Obama just made his first
comment on the Romney tape itself. The president made an appearance on
tonight`s "Late Show with David Letterman." And he said, there aren`t a
lot of people out there who think they are victims.

So, there he is coming back I thought rather calmly.

Your thought, Sam. He`s not jumping to exploit this, but my bet is
the campaign will for the next several weeks and perhaps the next two
months.

STEIN: Well, why would he jump to exploit it? Romney has done
damage to himself and Obama doesn`t need to push him any further. You can
let him -- you know, try to explain the way what he was trying to say. You
know, yes, you`re right, the campaign will do it subtly.

But for Obama, it seems like a fairly easy play. Just let Romney do
all the explaining and stay away from it.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Jonathan, dangle slowly, slowly in the
wind, as someone said during Watergate?

CHAIT: Look, I don`t think this is going to be a big political hit
on Romney. I don`t think most people -- even people who don`t pay income
taxes realize they don`t pay income taxes. They pay taxes and they think
of income tax is taxes. That`s why when Republicans say income taxes and
taxes, it works.

MATTHEWS: OK, sir, there we disagree, because I believe this is the
script, behind-the-scenes script, this is the explanation, if you will, of
what he`s done in his ad campaign and going after blaming welfare as
basically getting rid of work requirement was basically for the poor out
there, as somebody -- as he pointed out, it was an attempt to work the
base. And here you have an exposition of that before his rich friends,
that it`s all about Obama trying to pay off his poor supporters with more
welfare.

Your thoughts on that? Come back at me, Jon.

CHAIT: Look, the welfare attack is a positive attack for Romney. I
mean, it shouldn`t help him. It should hurt him a lot.

But I think it`s going -- it is actually going to either not hurt or
possibly help him a little bit. If he can frame it as being for the middle
class against these poor lazy people who are trying to take your money --

MATTHEWS: Forty-seven percent?

CHAIT: -- that`s an effective attack.

STEIN: Jonathan`s right --

MATTHEWS: Forty-seven percent of the people are lazy bums?

CHAIT: How many voters know what percentages are and have a clear
idea of what segments are sociological aligned into what fragments?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think people make the case Obama should be making?
Do you think people who are in veterans hospitals because they lost a limb
or two fighting our wars and are dependent a bit on government help, are
they waiting for breakfast in bed? Are they somehow shirkers? They`re the
opposite of shirkers?

CHAIT: Absolutely, I absolutely agree with you. Either it`s just
the difference between what ought to disqualify a man to be president and
those comments ought to disqualify Romney.

MATTHEWS: Have you given up on America, Jonathan Chait? Your sense
is worse than Obama was in `08. You think they`re clinging to their
idiotic beliefs and that`s how they`re going to vote.

CHAIT: Look, most people don`t follow this all day the way you and I
do, you know? There are a lot of topics I don`t follow all day and I don`t
know anything about it. I have to just, you know --

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re talking to people right now, by definition
watching him, by definition, and hoping are paying attention because they
believe it`s important. And I do, because it`s the mindset of one of the
candidates for president. It`s always important to know that mindset.

I was disturbed -- I was disturbed, Sam and Jon, by what Obama said
in San Francisco. I was disturbed that he was condescending, an Ivy League
elitist. I don`t like that in American politics.

Your thought --

STEIN: Let me just jump in because Jon makes a point, which is if
you look at polling in aftermath of so-called gaffes, this is not a gaffe,
but if you look at polling it tends not to move the needle all that much,
at least in this campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: -- two weeks of advertising.

STEIN: And this is my point -- with Obama, he had the Obama of being
at the tail end of a process that was largely mathematically sound. Now,
he did lose Pennsylvania, he did struggle that end. But at that point, we
basically assumed Obama would be the nominee unless he had to really get
out of the race.

Romney only has 50 days left. I mean, how much can you afford you
can talk about this for two more weeks?

MATTHEWS: I would think they`ll get two more weeks of advertising.

Thank you, Jonathan Chait. We agree to disagree, I think.

Anyway, Sam Stein -- gentlemen, thank you both.

When we return, let me finish with a rare look at Romney we got in
that tape. He actually said what he thinks.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this. There`s an intriguing
defense of what Mitt Romney said to those wealthy folk down in Boca Raton.
He said he wasn`t saying what he believed but what he believed that crowd
down there wanted to hear him say. Well, if that`s the best defense Romney
can come up with or have put up for him of the most elitist putdown of the
American people in history, the guy`s really got problems because --
because the one all-consuming definition of Mitt Romney is his readiness to
buckle to every element on American right.

He knocks the two-state solution in the Middle East. He knocks any
compromise on spending and taxes. He wants to ban abortion rights and
same-sex marriage and legalize the largest gun magazines a human being can
carry. Oh, yes, he wants to kiss off anyone in the bottom half of the
American income stream as long as it butters up the top.

There is of course one powerful significant alternative
interpretation. It is that what Mitt Romney said about the haves and what
he considers the moochers is exactly what he thinks.

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

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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