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updated 9/26/2012 11:13:51 AM ET 2012-09-26T15:13:51

HARDBALL
September 25, 2012

Guests: Joe Klein, Andrew Sullivan, Susan Page, Marc Morial

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: The know-nothings.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with the bone-headed poll numbers just in. I`m not
talking about the arithmetic, I`m talking about what it says about some
voters out there, especially on the right.

Catch this. A third of conservative Republicans are convinced the
president is a Muslim. A third. Less than half believe in global warming.
Only 2 out of 5 in Ohio, for example, believed he was born in the U.S. The
rest are to one degree or the other birthers.

And just to make you feel a little better about that and let you know
how low-information these voters are on the right, catch this. Two thirds
of Republicans say that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when
our troops got there in 2003.

Do they have amnesia? Have they been buried in their basements the
last nine years? What explains this many people being so out to lunch that
they don`t even remember how W -- remember him? He was president -- blew
his whole reason for sending our troops in there in the first place. And
how can people be so helpless?

Anyway, this may explain why Romney`s in trouble because people out
there think his party and the way it`s thinking these days is out of it.

Joining me right now is Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post and Joe
Klein of "Time."

First let`s take at (ph) two polls that tells you the problems the
Republican`s in right now, the two key states, Ohio and Florida. Let`s
check the HARDBALL "Scoreboard."

According to "The Washington Post," President Obama has a 4-point lead
over Mitt Romney in Florida. That`s 4 points down there in a very tough
state, 51-47 for Obama. In Ohio, the president`s lead`s a more comfortable
8 points, 52-44. That is dramatic.

We have joining us -- well, let`s take a look at that for a minute,
savor it -- of Howard Fineman, thank you for joining us, and Joe Klein of
"Time" magazine. Gentlemen, thank you.

It strikes me that the numbers I put out tonight -- and I`m going to
get all through them -- show a party obliterated (SIC) to reality. They
don`t seem to watch the news. They don`t seem to know, for example, the
huge fight that went on when we realized there was no weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq. That was the whole reality we lived in, the
disillusionment on the right, the confusion in the middle, the anger on the
left. They didn`t even experience that period of time?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, to put a charitably, I think the Republican Party today is the
nostalgia party. That was my sense of it, having kind of marinated in
their world view down in Tampa at the Republican convention. They think of
a simpler world, a world where the verities that they believe in still
apply in simple terms.

The fact is, it`s a complex world. If you just run against
government, if the whole thing is, I don`t want government, I don`t believe
in government, then you aren`t going to participate in the reality of
economic life, for one, in America today.

They`re the nostalgia party. They would like to believe that the
military was correct, that Dick Cheney was correct about weapons of mass
destruction. They would prefer to believe in that...

MATTHEWS: But what evidence do they have...

FINEMAN: ... possibility.

MATTHEWS: ... that we were right about Iraq and WMD?

FINEMAN: They don`t. What I`m saying is that they want to will
themselves into believing authority figures who used to be respected around
the country and who no longer are.

MATTHEWS: Joe Klein of "Time," thank you for joining us tonight,
about this central question. Sometimes we can simply disagree looking at
the same picture. (INAUDIBLE) oh, that`s not -- that`s not true. That is
true.

But when you look at something so demonstrably true -- we didn`t find
weapons of mass destruction when we got to Iraq, which confounded people
who supported the war -- and fair enough, they got it wrong. People in the
middle say, Well (INAUDIBLE) these guys don`t know what they`re talking
about. And people on the left said, We never thought that was the reason
for the war in the first place.

But to not know it -- what do you make of these numbers? Let`s take a
look. Democrats in this new poll, 63 percent say there was no weapons of
mass destruction there, 15 percent say there were. OK, 1 out of 6
Democrats think there might have been. Republicans however -- 63 percent
of Republicans say, yes, there were weapons of mass destruction, almost two
thirds.

How do we account for that misstatement of fact?

JOE KLEIN, "TIME": Well, I think this is a tribute to the persuasive
powers of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and the Drudge Report and the rest of
that echo chamber. You don`t hear Rush talking about weapons of mass
destruction anymore.

And I saw this pie chart on Andrew Sullivan`s blog today -- something
like 93 percent of the mentions of global warming on Fox News knock it down
as a real phenomenon. And so when you have people living in this
hermetically sealed world that does not resemble reality, they wind up
believing some very weird things.

MATTHEWS: Well, when the Queen Mary starts making regular trips
across the polar ice cap because there`s no more polar ice cap...

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: ... do you think they might notice? Has anybody seen the
pictures from Greenland the other day?

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Yes, I agree with Joe. I agree that, number one, the
Republicans are the nostalgia party. They`re the simplicity party.
They`re the...

MATTHEWS: Are they Luddites? Are they anti-science?

FINEMAN: I think -- I think if they`re convinced, as many of them
are, that science is being used as a conspiracy to take away their freedom
and take away their independence...

MATTHEWS: I saw that movie, by the way. It`s called "Planet of the
Apes."

FINEMAN: Yes, and that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And it wasn`t a comedy!

FINEMAN: If, as I`m sure, Joe -- Joe and I listen to -- we watch Fox.
We listen to it because you got to cover the whole spectrum here...

MATTHEWS: I know.

FINEMAN: ... as a reporter -- that`s the -- that`s the message that
you get, that the scientists and the bureaucrats are combining...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... to rob us of our freedom.

MATTHEWS: So it`s basically a fear. It`s a fear of everything.

Take a look at this number, though, the infamous birther question, Was
the president born in the United States? Because of course, under our
Constitution, he has to be born here to be president.

Well, the PPP polled Ohio Republican primary voters -- these are
people who voted already this year -- 37 percent, they do not think Barack
Obama was born here. Just 2 in 5 say the president was American-born, an,
therefore, a legitimate president.

When you ask the president`s religion -- this gets really scary -- a
majority of all voters don`t take him at his word. Just 49 percent -- and
this is all voters -- say he`s a Christian, which is what he says he is.
And 30 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservative Republicans
say Obama is a Muslim, simple as that (INAUDIBLE) that is actually...

Now, here`s the point. These bad numbers, (INAUDIBLE) say it twice
wrong, these 34 percent, they`re twice what they were four years ago. So
people, when he came in, they took him at his face value. This guy is what
he says he is. I`m American born, obviously. I got a whole history. It
was announced when I was born in Honolulu. It was in all the papers there.
And I am what I am, a Christian. I go to this church that caused him a lot
of trouble. Do we remember that? He went to a church, Jeremiah Wright`s
church, which is a Christian church, that got him in all the trouble.

So why have we changed from that, anger about his black church that
the right didn`t like, and acceptance of him as an American, to this --
they`re all becoming Donald Trumps, mini-Trumps.

FINEMAN: Well, my explanation for it is fear. My explanation for it
is that it`s not based on a study of genealogical history or -- or -- it`s
fear. And among a certain part of this population, this country, which you
showed there on the charts, they think that President Obama is on a mission
to rob the American people of their freedom.

MATTHEWS: That`s why he killed bin Laden.

FINEMAN: That -- yes.

MATTHEWS: That`s why he`s almost destroyed now al Qaeda, which he
said he would do.

FINEMAN: I`m just saying that`s their world view, and the fear
expresses itself in the idea that this man must be someone else. He must
be another. He must be a hidden person. He must have an agenda that is
hidden...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... for some reason.

MATTHEWS: Among the agenda items -- Joe, I just want to point out
some things that Republicans are watching, and a good number of them do. I
just want to point out a couple things.

Your stock market, your 401(k), has doubled, not because of Obama, but
he certainly didn`t get in the way of it doubling. He didn`t have some
plan to bring down Wall Street. It`s over 13,500 now. It was 6,500 when
he got in there, really. I mean, these are realities. I mean, they should
have some role in people`s thinking, reality.

KLEIN: The housing market is coming back. Our consumer debt levels
are at all-time lows. But I really do agree with Howard. What do you hear
most often from these people? We want our America back.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KLEIN: Well, the America that they`re living in now is increasingly
minority, and it`s all these different kind of people. You know, the mini-
marts are -- you know, the cliche is that every mini-mart is run by a South
Asian. There are all these Latinos around. And they look at...

MATTHEWS: They`re pretty good mini-markets, actually.

KLEIN: They`re -- they`re...

MATTHEWS: I would say that the new -- the new arrivals in our country
are very good at working 24/7...

KLEIN: They are...

MATTHEWS: ... and stocking their store with great fresh produce
that`s very healthy for people, in many cases.

KLEIN: The South -- the South Asians and the Koreans, the East
Asians, have been model American immigrants. They`re terrific. They...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don`t think they have a crime factor at all, in most
cases.

KLEIN: These people look at their grandchildren, they see them dating
people of different races, and then they see them becoming gay, some of
them. And then they look at the president of the United States, who
doesn`t have the good sense to be either black or white and his middle name
is Hussein -- Hussein, QED, he`s a Muslim!

MATTHEWS: Yes. I like the way you phrased it, becoming gay. I`m not
sure about that -- that choice issue -- I mean, that came up with Trent
Lott, I think.

KLEIN: No, I think you`re right...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: Joe`s point is that it`s a more -- it`s a more complicated
world than it was -- demographically, in terms of all the different ethnic
groups. In New York City, I think there are 140 or 150 languages spoken in
the schools.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: At the Republican convention, that was -- that was Opie
and...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... Andy Griffith, and that was a wonderful thing on TV,
even though it wasn`t real at the time, either. And that -- I don`t mean
to -- it sounds condescending. I`m not trying to be that way. It`s -- I -
- I wish life were simpler.

KLEIN: The fear is legitimate.

FINEMAN: Yes, I wish life...

KLEIN: The fear is real.

FINEMAN: ... life were simpler. We loved the `50s.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... but a lot of people had no reason to love the `50s...

KLEIN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... because we didn`t get the Civil Rights bill through...

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: ... until the `60s.

FINEMAN: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: And you couldn`t even go to a toilet driving up -- well,
there wasn`t a 95.

KLEIN: Chris, can I just...

MATTHEWS: You couldn`t do it on Route 40.

Let me bring this up. It seems like Joe Biden is a familiar figure 60
years ago. Barack Obama, of course, has an exotic name, an African name,
but he`s not an unusual fellow. He seems like a guy you`d play golf or
hang out with. These aren`t strange personalities. Leon Panetta is the
most common, regular, defense secretary, someone you would have met 100
years ago.

Are the Democratic Party that New Age that they scare people? I just
don`t see that myself. Maybe I`m part of that reality. I don`t see them
as strange at all.

KLEIN: Chris, it goes back to the propaganda factor. It`s not just
that Rush and Fox and those guys say something, it`s that we say the other
thing. If we say that Barack Obama isn`t a Muslim, that must not be
true...

MATTHEWS: I know.

KLEIN: ... because we`re the liberal media. We`re the mainstream
media.

MATTHEWS: I got you.

KLEIN: And nothing we can say -- we say can be trusted.

MATTHEWS: I know. It`s called -- I`ve called anti-posture (ph) for
years. It`s just saying no to everything.

Thank you, guys. I think you nailed it. It`s psychological. Anyway,
Howard Fineman and Joe Klein, thank you.

Coming up -- it`s not ignorance, it`s psychological -- could Barack
Obama be the Democrats` Ronald Reagan? Now, there`s a big thought. And it
comes to us from a smart guy, Andrew Sullivan, and the front cover of
"Newsweek." He has a change -- well, he says that Obama has a chance to
transform American politics in the next four years, if he gets the next
four years.

Also, world leaders seek his guidance. Presidential candidates don`t
dare reject his invitations. Bill Clinton has become -- well, I`ll call
him this -- president of the world. But today, Mitt Romney also is there
genuflecting at the Clinton Global Initiative today. And more important,
we know who he wants to win the presidency this time. His name is Barack
Obama. And next time, her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Plus, there`s been no shortage of reaction to what happened at the end
of last night Seahawks-Packers game. What could make Wisconsin governor
Scott Walker become pro-union? How about lousy reffing? We`ll be right
back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hits the lone receiver to the left. The Packers
playing at the goal line. As Wilson struggles to keep it alive. The
game`s final play. It`s a Wilson lob to the end zone, which is fumbled by
Tate with Jennings simultaneous. Who has it? Who are they giving it to?
Touchdown!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Two different signals by two different refs. One result,
the anti-union pro-Packers governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, wants the
union refs back on the field after the substitute refs gave that catch and
that game to Seattle.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this Republican plan to keep blacks from
voting. I`m not going to stop talking about it. It`s a shame that the
party of Lincoln is involved in a multi-state effort to keep people who
were freed by Lincoln from voting.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Take a look at this head-scratcher of a poll number from
the new CNBC poll. On the question of whether the economy is better off
now than it was four years ago, 55 percent say the economy is worse, just
22 percent say it`s better. Yet when asked which candidate is better for
the economy, 43 percent say President Obama, 34 percent -- only 34 say Mitt
Romney. Put that one together, those sets of numbers.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. With just six weeks to go to the
election and recent gains in swing states by President Obama, Democrats are
allowing themselves -- at least some Democrats -- to begin thinking about
what a second Obama presidential term would be like, what it would look
like.

In the latest issue of "Newsweek," the cover story is written by
columnist Andrew Sullivan, who argues that with a second term, President
Obama could become a transformative president, in fact, among the nation`s
great presidents.

And here`s something sure to gall Republican. Sullivan says President
Obama could become the Democrats` Ronald Reagan. Well, Sullivan writes,
quote, "He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a
recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing
universal health care, strafing the ranks of al Qaeda, presiding over a
civil rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery."

With me now is "Newsweek`s" Andrew Sullivan. He`s also the editor of
The Dish. And also joining us is Ari Melber. He`s an MSNBC contributor
and a correspondent for "The Nation."

Gentlemen, thank you. Our main focus is on you and your big brain,
Andrew, my friend, because -- it`s hard for me to figure out what
"Newsweek`s" been doing the last few months because every front cover is
different than the other one. One trashes Obama. This one brilliantly, I
think, celebrates the potential of a certain election result.

Give me your sense, how you got into this idea of even thinking about
the next four years, given all our focus here at HARDBALL and elsewhere on
what`s going to happen in six weeks.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, "NEWSWEEK": Because he, the president, has been
thinking about it for four years already. And if you`ve watched him
carefully, you`ve seen that he`s always played a long game, and part of
that long game was always reelection.

You know, most presidents deal with the Middle East in the last two
years. He started his first go. He inherited the worst recession, but he
pushed through health care reform at the very beginning.

He knew these things would take time, and so he set it up in a way to
enable the big payoff to come later, which is a high-risk/high-reward
strategy. And on the debt, of course, the Republicans went nuts and
prevented him from getting a sensible "grand bargain" on this, but again,
he set up the debt ceiling fiasco so that we have sequestration coming down
December 31st and the end of the Bush tax cuts if nothing happens.

And even Jim Demint has now conceded that if Obama wins, then they
will have to give on taxes. Once the Republicans give on taxes, we could
have the "grand bargain" if -- if, I think -- Obama wins with a big enough
margin because that would be...

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s go to that quote by Senator Demint. He`s a
very conservative senator from South Carolina. Here he is. "We`re not
going to save our defense unless we go along with the president`s wishes to
raise taxes on small business. It`s not a good choice. I would never
support it, but there are enough Republicans, I think, who are so afraid of
defense cuts that they would probably give in."

Let me go to Ari. Thanks for joining us, Ari. My sense is, as well
as Andrew has laid this out, how Obama is this visionary and can think
three or four years ahead, he must have also counted on an economic
recovery kicking in with a lot more steam than we`ve had, which jeopardizes
getting to that second term. We have an 8 percent-plus unemployment rate
that looks like it`s going to be facing us in the face the day people vote.

ARI MELBER, "THE NATION," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that`s
right. They had hoped that the economy would rebound more. Of course,
they inherited a 750 million (SIC) per month job loss rate and have
improved a lot from that, as Andrew documents in the piece. But they have
a longer ways to go.

I think the other interesting comparison to Ronald Reagan, of course,
Chris, is there`s two Ronald Reagans. There was the Ronald Reagan who
worked with Democrats, who made tax reform a priority but also raised
taxes, who signed the federal law that requires that hospitals have to
treat poor people when they come into the ER. Ronald Reagan worked across
the aisle on a lot of things.

And then there`s the Ronald Reagan we hear about only in the GOP
primary debates, a sort of a conservative ideologue at every turn. I think
if you`re talking about the first Reagan, Obama has tried to follow that
path, he`s just had less cooperation on offer in the Congress.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he -- he didn`t...

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Chris, can I make two points about that?

MATTHEWS: By the way, Ronald Reagan was no neocon.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: ... Reagan ran for reelection...

MATTHEWS: He didn`t want to keep the cold war going.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Sorry.

That Reagan ended his first term with a higher misery index than Obama
currently has. Reagan`s recession was also a Fed-induced recession in
order to wring inflation out of the economy.

And he -- it happened and began on his watch. Obama inherited a
financial collapse recession...

MELBER: Right.

SULLIVAN: ... which of their nature lasts longer, and it happened
before he got there.

I think that helps explain the difference. If you look at the Gallup
poll of approval of Reagan and Obama, you will see they`re the closest of
any two presidents in the last 50 years, except that Reagan sank lower in
his first term than Obama ever did. He went down to 35 percent. And
Obama`s highs are less high.

So it`s still a struggle, I agree, but I think what Obama has been
able to do is say, look, I`m not giving you sugar high morning in America.
I`m telling you we`re gritty, back to the basics of rebuilding America.
And I know it`s tough.

But that is finally a different kind of message. People realize that
that -- that Reagan`s recovery was the sugar high, and we still had to deal
with its debt.

MATTHEWS: Well, the question I have -- first of all, I`m not sure
you`re right because Paul Volcker was appointed Fed chair by Jimmy Carter
and he began squeezing the money supply under Carter. I know all about it.
I was there.

SULLIVAN: But the recession started in `81.

MATTHEWS: And the second thing is you call the misery index --
obviously the most -- strongest element is the misery index right now is
the unemployment rate up around 8.3 percent. Inflation doesn`t help
getting rid of it politically if it isn`t around. Nobody gives you credit
for not having inflation, Andrew. They give you anger if you have it.
They forget about it.

SULLIVAN: But they were predicting it.

I will remind you, every right-wing economist was predicting
hyperinflation by now because of our debt. So, we have a problem of
deflation, but it`s -- but I`m just saying if people were -- people don`t
accept that, but they accept that he`s done the best he can.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: And what`s interesting in the polls is that they know it`s
tough, but they think he`s got the better plan to fix it.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the two things we argue about on this
show. Let`s start with immigration.

How do you get through a really good immigration bill that has both
progressivity in terms of letting people come in the country, recognition
of who is already in the country, allowing people perhaps to come in on
shorter periods of time with work permits? How do you put it all on paper
and stop this under-the-table stuff? Can he do that with some kind of
teeth that really enforces it?

SULLIVAN: You do it the way Reagan did it. You get both parties
together and you figure it out.

And you do it in the Congress. And the reason we haven`t done it is
because the Republicans have blocked it. And that`s the other thing. If
Republicans lose the Latino vote this time by the kind of margins the polls
are showing, there are many people in the Republican Party -- Karl Rove
chief among them, Jeb Bush chief among them -- who understands that if they
alienate this constituency permanently, they`re headed for minority status
forever, a regional minority white party.

MATTHEWS: OK.

SULLIVAN: And they need Latinos. So I think there`s enough of a
group of people, especially in the Senate, and possibly even in the House,
to actually move immigration forward, and I think Obama should make it the
first priority.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I`d like to see some teeth involved with it
because they did Simpson-Mazzoli and the teeth fell out.

Let me ask you, Ari Melber, about this deal. Are you confident, as
Andrew is, that there can be some big deal on spending and revenues that,
the Republicans will come to the table, they will belly up and say, damn
it, Obama won twice in a row now, we have to deal with him?

Or will they just go to the right having lost a lot of their moderates
in the next election perhaps, this election coming up, and say, no, we`re
going to continue with the scorched earth policy of bringing this guy down?
If we can`t keep him from being elected a couple times, we`re still going
to destroy his legacy. Which way do you see it going in the next four
years if he gets in again?

MELBER: I think it all depends on the margin.

I think if this is at all considered on the right a narrow reelection
for the president, if we postulate that hypothetical, then they say, well,
the only problem was that Paul Ryan should have been first on the ticket,
we should have been more conservative.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I hear that.

MELBER: And you know that argument.

I do think if it`s a blowout -- and these are all ifs -- and you have
a Goldwater-type reassessment, then, yes, A., you have a desire to move,
and, B., you have new people in the party like a Ted Cruz that the
president can go out and talk to and say let`s be reasonable. You`re a Tea
Party guy, but let`s do something so that people like your parents can have
a path to citizenship and really fix this.

MATTHEWS: That`s a good idea. I`m for that.

Anyway, thank you, gentlemen.

Andrew Sullivan, amazing piece again. I will read it several times.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Ari Melber, thank you for being with us tonight.

MELBER: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Up next: It took a wild ending for last night`s Packers-
Seahawks game to get Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to finally side with
union workers, of course the players union. And that`s next in the
"Sideshow."

This is going to be talked about a long time, this bad call. This is
HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

Getting a lot of buzz about that refs` call in last night`s game
between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Final play is a Wilson loft to the end zone, which
is (INAUDIBLE) by Tate with Jennings simultaneous. Who was it? Who do
they give it to? Touchdown!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you saw two different calls there by the ref, one
interception and a touchdown.

Anyway, there`s quite a lot of outrage from people who say the
replacement refs should have called that an interception, not the touchdown
that won the game for Seattle. The replacement refs are filling in during
the labor dispute between NFL and the regular refs.

The onslaught of calls to get the permanent guys back on the field is
growing after last night, of course, even from the political people.
President Obama said earlier today he wants the permanent refs to come
back, but a few nuggets from the GOP as well. Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker, no friend of labor, tweeted -- quote -- "After catching a few hours
of sleep, the Packers game is still just as painful," with the hashtag
"returntherealrefs."

Paul Ryan, also a Wisconsinite and a Packers fan, agreed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, give me a
break.

It is time to get the real refs, and you know what? It reminds me of
President Obama and the economy. If you can`t get it right, it`s time to
get out.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RYAN: I half-think that these refs work part-time for the Obama
administration and the budget office. They see a debt crisis and they just
ignore and pretend it didn`t even happen. They`re trying to pick the
winners and losers, and they don`t even do that very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a cheap exploitation of something people really care
about.

Anyway, what are anti-union guys like Walker and Ryan doing trying to
get the unionized refs -- See the irony? -- back on the field. That`s not
to mention Ryan is comparing the whole thing to President Obama and the
national debt. What do those have to do with each other? What bad
speechwriting. By the way, he was reading it off the lectern there. He
couldn`t even remember it.

Anyway, next, the story of Chris Christie and a reporter, the first
one of the season anyway. At an event yesterday, one reporter pressed
Christie on his state`s full foreclosure laws, its policies. You want to
know what came next?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: I do have a follow-up, Governor.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Yes.

Who are you, by the way?

QUESTION: I`m Jim Hoffer.

CHRISTIE: From where?

QUESTION: Channel 7, WABC.

My follow-up is, I`m not sure that really rings true, because...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: OK. Well, good. If you don`t think it rings true, that`s
not a question.

Next question.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: This is an urgent issue facing the state. Why would you
blow it off?

CHRISTIE: Michael, please. Help me ignore him.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Why would you brush it off?

CHRISTIE: Do me a favor. Don`t show up once in every blue moon and
think you`re going to dominate my press conference.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Hmm.

At that same event, Christie downplayed the effect Romney`s 47 percent
comments caught on camera will have on the election, racking it up to a bad
week for Romney, but conceding, the governor did, that if the election were
tomorrow -- quote -- "That would be a problem." Fair enough . He said that
one straight.

Finally ,flashback to 1960. This ad hit the airwaves during Jack
Kennedy`s face-off with Dick Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Do you want a man for president who is
seasoned through and through, but not so doggone seasoned that he won`t try
something new, a man who`s old enough to know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): And young enough to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Well, it`s up to you, it`s up to you,
it`s strictly up to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow.

Well, the ad like that, we`re not having many of them lately. Anyway,
not going to have much pull these days. And all the same, the 2012 Obama
version has arrived thanks to a Web site called Write Me a Jingle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Do you want a man for president who is
seasoned through and through, but not to doggone seasoned that he won`t try
something new?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE AND FEMALE (singing): A man who`s old enough to
know and young enough to do? It`s up to you, it`s up to you, it`s strictly
up to you.

Barack Obama, Obama, Barack Obama, Obama, Barack Obama for me.

Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s tough not to feel refreshed about politics after
that one, isn`t it?

Up next: Aside from candidates themselves, has anybody been as big a
player in the presidential campaign than Mr. Bill Clinton, Bubba? Well,
both President Obama and Mitt Romney spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative
up in New York today. And that`s ahead. They`re all genuflecting to the
big guy, Elvis. He`s back.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUE HERERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Sue Herera with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

A late-day sell-off sinks stocks today. The Dow drops 101 points.
The S&P falls 15, and the Nasdaq loses 43.

Caterpillar slid 4 percent after it cut its 2015 profit expectations,
citing the global economy. And it was another rough day for Facebook,
which lost more than two percent. Meanwhile, September consumer confidence
rose to its highest level in seven months.

And home prices ticked up for a sixth straight month in July, that
according to the S&P Case-Shiller report.

And that`s it from CNBC. We are first in business worldwide -- and
now back to Chris and HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

One thing came through loud and clear today at the Clinton Global
Initiative up in New York. Bill Clinton is the man to see. He`s the boss
of the Democratic Party. He`s so influential, even the candidate of the
opposing party, Mitt Romney, took time away from the campaign trail to
attend his big event up there today.

And President Obama, too, praised the former president. Let`s listen
to President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am grateful for your
friendship and your extraordinary leadership. And I think I speak for the
entire country when we say that you continue to be a great treasure for all
of us.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So what will the power of Bill Clinton mean for the 2012
election looking ahead for six weeks and beyond?

John Heilemann is "New York" magazine national affairs editor and an
MSNBC contributor.

And I must give you congratulations, John. I was out there with you.
You and Mark Halperin wrote the book that picked up four, count them, four
Emmys this weekend, this Sunday night. We all watched. It must be amazing
to be part of a show that included that first hour or so of that show, and
then it got intellectual when you got up there. I thought it was pretty
impressive.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Congratulations.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: It`s all part of television.

HEILEMANN: Thank you very much.

MATTHEWS: Susan Page, thank you. I`m sure you will get your Emmy
some day for front-page reporting with "USA Today."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about a game-changing situation. I know you
don`t want to give away your next book. But it seems to me Bill Clinton`s
speech in Charlotte not only changed the political sort of feel, but people
gab to feel coming out of that, according to some polling I have seen,
feeling better about the economy objectively.

HEILEMANN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about that, the way you look at that.

HEILEMANN: I think hugely important, that speech, Chris.

In a way, I think even conservatives have acknowledged the notion that
President Clinton`s speech was kind of a game-changing moment in the
election. He did two different things. I mean, he really did lay out the
choice with incredible clarity.

He laid out the argument for the fact that -- really refuted in a very
powerful, concrete way and answered the question that the Obama campaign
was having trouble answering, which was are you better off now than you
were four years ago? And he said, yes, you are emphatically, and let me
show you why.

I think that was huge. And there`s a lot of polling out there that
suggested that the bump that President Obama got out of the convention was
almost all due to Bill Clinton. And you now see him almost like a running
mate.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

HEILEMANN: If you look at the Obama ads, you see Obama ads across the
country, President Clinton is in almost all of the ones that are running
heavily in the swing states right now, and they run -- the video runs back-
to-back at the end of the ads. You see President Clinton speaking, you see
President Obama speaking. It`s almost as if they were running mates.

That`s how powerful the Obama campaign thinks Bill Clinton is, is
validated for his economic message and as a kind of champion of the notion
that in fact, yes, things are on the right track.

MATTHEWS: Susan, I want to you look at a short bite, a very short
bite from the great "Daily Show," which, by the way, won its 10th Emmy I
think the other night.

Here is Jon Stewart. And he talked about -- well, it was an
understated reference to Clinton`s tour de force down in Charlotte. Let`s
watch very quick.

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

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": So give any
good speeches lately, or...

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Susan, that is now so well-known that that speech was so
good that all Stewart, who is brilliant at this, just teases that.

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, it`s
really remarkable.

Remember, these are two men, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who, you
know, have a history, and not a good one. They have a history as being
rivals, some bitterness from the primary battle four years ago. And yet,
if President Obama wins a second term, some of the credit is going to go to
Bill Clinton.

And you saw in the interview that President Obama did with "60
Minutes" on Sunday, he said, what is -- here is a quality I admire in
presidents I have studied who are successful: Persistence. It`s an
underrated virtue.

Who do you think he was thinking about when he talked about
persistence? Because there`s no person in public life who has been more
persistent than Bill Clinton in taking a -- getting knocked down and
getting right back up.

MATTHEWS: And that is the key. Oliver Wendell Holmes said you can`t
change everything in your life, but you can have a big heart, you can keep
trying.

Anyway, on CBS "Face the Nation" this Sunday, Bill Clinton was
noncommittal in his way on whether Hillary will run to 2016. We can always
read this guy. But he left no doubt that he thinks she`s in the right job
now and, of course, we know what he`s thinking about the future. Let`s
watch him in action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I just don`t know besides she`s
an extraordinarily able person. I never met anybody I thought was a better
public servant. But I have no earthly idea what she`ll decide to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know he`s really good at that. John, I just -- I find
him so fascinating to watch. Just to listen to him and his I.Q. must be in
the 200 range and he`s there saying what he knows he has to say, don`t
speak for her, she`s an autonomous figure, happened to be married to him,
but she`s a politician in her own right. Don`t preclude anything she does,
but I thought it was very much a cheerful message about her.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, President
Clinton clearly wants his wife to run for president in 2016. I don`t think
there`s any doubt about that. I spent the day today over at CGI, and
there`s a lot of the old Clinton network that`s around that operation. You
talk to those folks. There`s a lot of people who want her to run. They
don`t have any doubt that President Clinton wants her to run, that he
thinks she would be a great president, he thinks she`s been a great
secretary of state.

I think that President Clinton is speaking the truth when he says he
doesn`t know what she`s going to do. I think she has made a very conscious
decision, even with the people closest around her, to say I`m not talking
about that right now, I`m not thinking about that right now. I want to
take some time off.

I think the question then becomes, you know, a year from now, when
she`s ahead of every Democrat in every poll by 50 points and she`s seen as
being the only one who can raise the kind of money you would need to be
able to run, whether she just -- if she decides to get in, she clears the
field with everyone else. I just don`t see if there`s any other Democrat
in position to take her on.

MATTHEWS: Speaking from my native state, Pennsylvania, she`d win
with 70 percent against anybody.

Anyway, let`s take a look at her speech today because I think -- at
the Global Initiative, I think she`s trying to do very subtly a little help
to the president. Here she is talking away about I am balance of power and
the wealth and the elite, how they don`t carry their weight around the
world in a way that`s very supportive of what the president has been say
being tax fairness. Let`s listen to Secretary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And one of the issues that
I have been preaching about around the world is collecting taxes in an
equitable manner, especially from the elites in every country. You know,
I`m out of American politics, but it is a fact that around the world the
elites of every country are making money. There are rich people
everywhere, and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own
countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, Susan, was she talking about Argentina, Borneo, or the
good old U.S. of A. I think she was doing some home consumption there.

PAGE: That doesn`t seem like such a subtle message to me. That
seems pretty clear.

You know, I assume Hillary Clinton runs in four years because why
shouldn`t she? Any man in that situation would be running. I mean, Joe
Biden is talking about running.

And, you know, here`s a change from four years ago. Four years ago
when she ran, we thought of Bill Clinton as a mixed blessing, a guy who
carried some baggage. What do we think we`ll think about him in four
years?

It seems to me he`s going to be probably a total asset for her if and
when she decides to make another bid.

MATTHEWS: We`ll see. You know, he`s always the comeback kid and he
always has to be. So maybe he`s made his final comeback. It`s an awful
big one this one he`s pulled.

Anyway, you`re right, Susan, but you never know.

Anyway, John Heilemann, Susan Page, thank you both.

Up next, today is National Voter Registration Day. Couldn`t be more
important given all this voter suppression out there. Let`s find out how
the Democrats are fighting back against that Republican effort in so many
states, 17 of them, to suppress the minority vote.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re exactly six weeks out from the election right now.
Today, Nate Silver of the "New York Times" crunched the numbers to see what
the polls tell us about which way this race is headed. Here`s what he
found -- since 1936 of the 19 presidential candidates who led in the polls
at this point in the campaign, 18 of the 19 won the popular vote, 17 won
the Electoral College. The exceptions, Tom Dewey, who famously fell to
Harry Truman in 1948, and, of course, poor Al Gore back in 2000.

If you eliminate the candidates with double digit leads at this
point, the front-runner`s record is eight wins out of 10, a winning
percentage of 80 percent. So where they stand now is very important.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: We cannot let anyone discourage us from
casting our ballots. We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the
voting booth. It is up to us to make sure that in every election, every
voice is heard and every vote is counted. That means making sure our laws
preserve that right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Michelle Obama speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus
this Saturday night. She was referring to the concerted effort since 2010
of course to make it more difficult to vote, especially minorities. This
map shows the 17 states where laws have been passed since then making it
tougher to vote now than it was in the last -- harder than the last
election.

So this year, it`s even more important that everyone who is eligible
to vote I think get registered to vote and fight for that chance to vote.

Toward that end, today is National Voter Registration Day in this
country. It`s a two-pronged effort to get people registered and to make
sure people know what sorts of documentation they`re going to need to vote
on Election Day or earlier.

Marc Morial is the president of the Urban League and sponsored the
National Voter Registration Day, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto is, of course,
an NBC Latino contributor. Thank you all.

MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Great, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I want to talk -- Marc, thank you so much for coming on.
Here is your chance to make the case to people who might be disillusioned
or discouraged because they`ve heard about all this suppression out there,
attempt to suppress, especially minority votes -- let`s be honest.

MORIAL: Let`s not be discouraged. Let`s not be pushed back, even
though there`s been a tremendous effort to make it more difficult for
people to vote. We want to encourage people to register. And we want to
encourage people who believe they are registered to check their
registration, make sure they know what those requirements are.

While 17 states passed law, Chris, there were proposals in 41 states.
And of the 17 states where laws have been passed, we`ve waged a vigorous
effort to the courts and with the Justice Department to stop those laws in
their tracks.

This is about democracy and this is about the right to vote. We
shouldn`t make it more difficult. We should make it simple and clear and
plain for people to be able to register and participate in democracy.

MATTHEWS: Victoria, let`s talk about Latino and Latino vote and the
feelings they as minorities facing this onslaught of new laws, new dates,
closed windows, closed doors, to voting.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO: It`s a steep hurdle for
millions of people. Let`s take for example the photo ID laws. Sixty
percent of Latinos do not have the requisite documents to vote with a photo
ID, compare that to 6 percent of non-Latino whites.

And then let`s take a step back --

MATTHEWS: In other words, they`re legitimate voters, they`re
legitimate Americans, they`ve been naturalized, so they`re born here but
they --

SOTO: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: What reason would they have for not having it, a photo ID
card, appropriate ID card?

SOTO: You know, a number of reasons. First of all, the cost of
getting that identification. And here in Texas, where they tried to pass a
stringent rule, it`s very hard to get to a DMV if you`re one of those rural
Latino voters. And they say, well, it`s a free photo ID. But what they
don`t tell you is that it costs you up to $22 to get a birth certificate in
order to get that free photo ID. So, one way or other --

MATTHEWS: So, it`s like a poll tax?

SOTO: Exactly.

MORIAL: It is a poll tax.

SOTO: Exactly a poll tax.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this -- the -- do you have a sense,
Marc, whether this was -- I don`t know if conspiracy is the right word but
this looks like a concerted effort in all these states, just happened
again, elected, and I think the Democrats weren`t watching the candy store
when all these people got elected. Were they all working together on this
with all these governors?

MORIAL: This was not serendipitous. This was an orchestrated,
planned attack -- an orchestrated planned avalanche that took place. You
had groups like American Legislative Exchange Council who were behind this.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MORIAL: You had large numbers of people who determine that it was
part of the 2012 strategy to make it more difficult for people to vote. We
need to understand that there have been scant cases of voter impersonation
in this country that have turned up. This is a solution looking for a
problem.

This is a set of legislative initiatives behind a phony smokescreen
of voter fraud.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

MORIAL: We want people to understand what it is. We want people to
be informed. We want people to vote.

MATTHEWS: Yes, here`s congressman -- the great Congressman John
Lewis, the great civil rights hero. He was talking at voter registration
event in Georgia today, encouraging people to fight voter suppression.
He`s been great on this.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: There are forces in America today, not
just in the American South, but all across our land, that is trying to make
it hard and difficult for people to register and vote, for people to cast
their vote. For all across America today, members of the Congressional
Black Caucus at this hour and later during the day are doing the same
thing. But we have 44 members in each congressional district. We have
until what, October the 9th? To get people registered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, Victoria, it seems to me the worst thing that
could come of this concerted effort of 17 states to try to close the door
to voting by people, Americans and legitimate voters, is people say no to
themselves. I was at Howard this year for the commencement, I said to the
kids, don`t ever say no to yourself.

I`m afraid that a lot of people -- Marc, they would say, this is
going to be the biggest pain in the butt, it`s going to be too complicated,
I`m not going to go this year, even if it`s Obama. Is that a danger out
there, they`ll be intimidated out of voting? Because of all this bad
stuff.

SOTO: It`s absolutely. It`s a danger. And the irony of it is that
we`re not using technological advances to automate our systems. A handful
of states have used automated registration systems where I can go online
and register to vote.

Well, what we`re seeing is the bulk of the states are going in
retrogressive manners. So, this is most frustrating to me on this Day of
National Voter Registration.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MORIAL: Well, Chris, you know, there are many of us across the
nation who have campaigns and efforts. Ours is called Occupy the Vote.
We`ve got a Web site that provides information that people need. We have a
hot line people can go to at 1-866-MYVOTEONE, where people can go to
register.

We cannot be deterred. We need everyone that loves freedom,
understands democracy and understands that voting is the foundation of
democracy, to get out there and make sure people are not frustrated --

MATTHEWS: We`ll have you back, Marc. We want this message out, too,
almost as much as you. Thank you, Mark Morial --

MORIAL: Thanks so much.

MATTHEWS: -- of Urban League.

And thank you, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, who work with us.

Anyway, we`ll be right back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish with this: I`ve said it before and we`ll say
it again. The Republican Party ought to be ashamed of this effort to
suppress the voting of African-Americans. Seventeen states have pushed
efforts to either require more documents or shut down voting opportunities.
It`s a multistate effort you have to be wonder is being run out of the
National Republican Committee itself.

If not, they might get out there and think about condemning it. I
think that will happen when hell freezes over. These are organized
campaigns by Republican-controlled legislatures at the state level, with
the single ambition to cut down on voting by African-Americans and other
minorities. In some cases, the courts have been able to stop them, but
certainly not all.

It`s the old dirty scam of winning elections by keeping your rivals
from getting out their vote. If you can`t win the hearts and minds of
voters, just shut the window. Just come up with the latest technique to
closing down their voting opportunities.

It all fits with the other ugly stuff, the continued talk in TV ads
about welfare recipients, to talk about Obama being a food stamp president,
the use of the filibuster to shut down the country`s first African-American
president and the continued talk by people like Donald Trump of this
birtherism nonsense.

Shameless. That`s the word for it. It`s the program of the party of
Abraham Lincoln for 2012, do you believe it? I don`t think he`d be very
proud of this stuff. It`s incredible so many are. It`s no way to win an
election.

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.
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