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updated 10/18/2012 11:48:54 AM ET 2012-10-18T15:48:54

HARDBALL
October 17, 2012
Guests: Nia-Malika Henderson, Chrystia Freeland, John Nichols, James Lipton

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Time of reckoning.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. President Obama won last night. He
had good lines, a good line of attack, and he finished strong, hitting a
homer in the ninth when challenger Mitt Romney was foolish enough to throw
that "100 percent" line high and right down the middle. Obama swung for
the fences and ended the night with his best of the night.

But this battle is just getting serious now. Obama got beaten and
came back to win, but these are battles. The war itself wages -- or rages
right now. And there`s only one man with the power to swing it around. He
needs to tell us -- that`s the president -- where he`s taking us
economically. He needs to lay out the highway to the future and he needs
to lay it out in the real terrain of the past four years.

That`s part of it, saying where he`s taking us. But he also needs to
say where the other guy would. I loved what he said about Romney last
night having a one-point plan, that being to give big tax breaks, even more
tax breaks, to the people at the top, to dump on the 47 percent he said
he`s not going to bother with.

Well, the big HARDBALL question of the night -- where does this stand
politically right now? Where does it appear to be headed between now and
the 20 days from now when the American people give their final verdict?

The HuffingtonPost`s Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and
John Feehery`s a Republican consultant. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

President Obama came out swinging today on the trail as he referenced
last night`s debate. Let`s watch that together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let`s recap what we
learned last night. His tax plan doesn`t add up. His jobs plan doesn`t
create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit.

So Iowa, you know, everybody here`s heard of the New Deal. You`ve
heard of the Fair Deal. You`ve heard of the Square Deal. Mitt Romney`s
trying to sell you a sketchy deal.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We are not buying it! We know better! We`ve been there!
We`ve tried that! We`re not going back, we`re moving forward! That`s why
I need your vote! We`ve got to finish what we started in 2008!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: You don`t want to invest in that sketchy deal!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back now. Howard and John, let`s try to do this
straight up right now without any partisanship for a few minutes here from
either side. I don`t expect it of you, Howard, but John, try to hold back.

I really want -- if you`re being asked now by your mother, your close
relative, somebody you really care -- to let them know the trail (ph) of
truth -- where`s this campaign stand right now?

We`ve got 20 days to go after last night`s victory by the president,
after the thumping he took two weeks ago, after the rough victory by Biden
-- very rough victory by him -- where does it all stand in terms of not
just their number but their direction? Howard first.

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, Chris, it`s a very close race. The popular vote totals, if you look
at various compilations of all the polls, has it dead even, 47 percent,
approximately, for both candidates. Significantly, nobody even close under
that statistic to 50 percent.

The Electoral College I think is closer than it was a few weeks ago.
The battleground states pretty much are the same. I think there are a
couple more than there were. I think it hangs in the balance.

I think that the president dug himself out of the hole he was in last
night, but he`s hardly home free. And neither, for that matter, is Mitt
Romney.

I think what the candidates say, directed especially at women,
undecided women voters who were the focus last night, Chris, is going to
make all the difference in the world, whom they will chose, who they will
trust with their lives, with their futures over the next few weeks. That`s
going to tell the tale.

MATTHEWS: John Feehery, how does it look?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don`t disagree with what
Howard said there. I do think that last night, the president did pretty
well. The thing -- his big failure was he didn`t say, What`s my deal? I
mean, you can talk about he talked about all those deals out there. You
know, you could say that about Mitt Romney`s sketchy deal, but he doesn`t
have his own deal. And I think that`s his problem. He didn`t lay out what
he wants to do in the next four years.

MATTHEWS: Give me -- I agree. I`m close to agreeing on this because
I think that was the missing feature last night and the vulnerable point.
So let`s you start and then Howard. What is it that, at least in format,
the president has to offer between now and the next 20 days? Is it what I
think it is, some notion of where he`s taking us based on where he has
taken us? It can`t be something new.

It has to be something based upon the stimulus program, his basic
belief in Keynesian economics, his basic belief that we have to do some
kind of building of infrastructure, something to do with job creation in
the public sector, something to do with perhaps including a corporate tax
cut as part of the deal, something that leads to something bigger than
we`ve got, based on what he`s done before.

Is that what you mean?

FEEHERY: I think he needs a big idea. He doesn`t have a big idea.
He doesn`t have any idea what he wants to do in the next four years, and
nobody else does. You know, say what you will about Mitt Romney, but I
thought he was very consistent about what he wanted to do in the next four
years.

MATTHEWS: OK. I agree with that.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: He keeps saying business, business, business, business,
business.

FEEHERY: Right.

MATTHEWS: I`m for business, business creates jobs, jobs (INAUDIBLE)
from business, business -- I agree. There`s no doubt what Romney will be.
He will be a CEO who believes the number one goal, his one-point plan, as
the president put it, is to take the tax burden off business...

FEEHERY: No.

MATTHEWS: ... small business, which he keeps...

FEEHERY: I don`t agree with that. His number one plan is to create
jobs and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... cutting taxes.

FEEHERY: Well, whatever. At least he`s talking about creating jobs.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what he will do. He doesn`t create the jobs.
He cuts the taxes and says...

FEEHERY: He`s creating jobs. He`s talking about creating jobs, and
that actually helps him with swing voters.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. For a while there, I thought you were on
the way to the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Howard -- you lost the path there. Howard, let me get back
to that because I think John began with the right thought.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I think Romney does offer a very simple solution. It is a
one-point plan.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I`ll take the tax burden off business, small business,
whatever. The other guy will put it on...

FINEMAN: Regulation, tax burden...

MATTHEWS: I know. I`ll make it easy for these guys to go wild (ph)
and make money. Cowboy capitalism will be back under me. And all the
country -- all the rich people in the world will come to America to make
business because this will be the easiest place to practice business in the
world. That was his religion last night.

Now, does the president -- can the president match that with a clear
notion of what he would do, given what he`s done, the stimulus package...

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: I understand. I understand. I understand, Chris. And I
think once again, Bill Clinton laid it out over the last many weeks. Bill
Clinton talked with great infectious enthusiasm about deals that he, Bill
Clinton, had done to generate business in the San Diego area in terms of
genetic research and sequencing the genome, all the jobs that had created,
animation and virtual reality programs in Orlando in association with
Disney that created thousands of jobs in that area.

I think what the president might want to do is look at what he`s done
so far, what he`s talked about in terms of the auto industry, and look
for...

MATTHEWS: Right!

FINEMAN: ... little -- little auto industry, look for sort of --
there are other auto industries...

MATTHEWS: Yes!

FINEMAN: ... all around the country...

MATTHEWS: Why doesn`t he say it, Howard? You said it better than
him. It`s industrial policy.

FINEMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: It`s what we call -- the neoliberals called industrial
policy.

(CROSSTALK)

FINEMAN: ... industrial policy because that`s what Bill Clinton put
together deals involving...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: ... government, business, and the nonprofit sector, the
research sector.

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: That could be done all over the country, and that`s what
Obama should do...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go back to John on this and then back to you
because I really think there`s a thing in politics where, as David Garth
once said, the great New York guy about advertising -- you know, wasn`t it
(INAUDIBLE) actually, it was the ad for Hugh E. Carey when he ran for
governor.

Before somebody tells you what they`re going to do, first ask them
what they`ve done. So it doesn`t do good -- let`s go with your idea of a
new idea, John. It does no good for Obama to throw out something brand-
new. It has to be based on something he`s got some street cred on -- the
auto industry.

He had a particular view that the United States government should
intervene, rescue the auto industry so it didn`t go down. He did that.
Can he project that to larger numbers of industries, newer industries,
older industries to reindustrialize the United States? Can that sell as a
proposal for the next four years?

FEEHERY: You know, I think it might sell with some members of his
base. I don`t know if it`s -- if it works with swing voters. I think the
problem for him is he`s out of money because we`re going bankrupt. And he
also needs a big idea on how we`re going to deal with our big bankrupt
nation that he helped, you know...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, that`s a Republican answer.

FEEHERY: ... with some help from with Bush and others...

MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not going to do that.

FEEHERY: It`s a problem! That`s -- that`s the...

MATTHEWS: He`s not going to do that.

FEEHERY: ... problem why he can`t have a big idea.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: That`s what all Republicans want to do. They say, Do
nothing in government, and then you don`t do anything, they say, How come
you`ve done anything, and if you do something, say you`re spending money.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There`s no way to win that argument against Republicans.
They will never give you credit for doing anything because that costs
money...

FINEMAN: Also...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

FINEMAN: ... if the president is fighting in the ring of deficit
reduction, he`s...

MATTHEWS: He`s gone.

FINEMAN: ... unfairly, he`s going to lose. I mean, Republicans had
as much to do with that as he does. But I think his problem...

MATTHEWS: Let`s go...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s go back to last night a little bit. I want to run
through some of these interesting points because I think they`ll tell us
more about how these two candidates are going than anything we say here.
In Romney`s closing statement last night, he opened up an opportunity
politically for the president by making a veiled reference to the 47
percent -- he actually said 100 percent -- comments the president failed to
address in the first debate.

Let`s watch the give and the take here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think the
president`s campaign has tried to characterize me as someone who`s very
different than who I am. I care about 100 percent of the American people.
I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous
future.

OBAMA: When he said, behind closed doors, that 47 percent of the
country considered themselves victims, who refuse personal responsibility,
think about who he was talking about! Folks on Social Security who have
worked all their lives, veterans who sacrificed for this country, students
who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams but also
this country`s dreams, soldiers who are overseas, fighting for us right
now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: John Feehery, what was Mitt Romney trying to say when he
said, I don`t -- I really don`t want to bother with -- or I`m not going to
bother with that 47 percent, after everything the president said
(INAUDIBLE) he said, I`m not going to bother with those people? What does
that mean when a candidate for president say I`m not going to bother with
those 47 percent of the country?

FEEHERY: Well, I think that Romney understands now that that was a
stupid thing to say.

MATTHEWS: Well, what did he mean by it?

FEEHERY: And it was -- and it was a stupid thing...

MATTHEWS: What did he mean by it? Not the words, what did he mean by
it?

FEEHERY: You know, I`m not quite sure what he meant...

MATTHEWS: Oh, come on!

FEEHERY: I guess -- my guess at he meant is that there`s a lot of
people who are waiting for government handouts and are not going out and
getting a job. I think that`s -- that`s kind of the bigger theme here.
Now, but the...

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. You mean the people on Social Security,
people who are on disability, people that are students are not worthy of
his attention as president?

FEEHERY: No, I don`t -- I don`t...

MATTHEWS: That`s what he said.

FEEHERY: I think he was making a political statement which was a
stupid statement. I mean, now he understands it was a stupid statement.
And now -- but his statement yesterday was a good one, which was as
president, he cares about 100 percent of the American people.

MATTHEWS: Well, now he`s on camera! Of course he`s saying it now.
He`s caught. You pick up the rock and you see the bug life underneath...

FEEHERY: Chris -- Chris...

MATTHEWS: That`s what you saw in Boca Raton. What`s going on under
the rock is more interesting than what`s showing...

(CROSSTALK)

FEEHERY: Let me make a bigger point about this than what happened
last night. What Barack Obama kept talking about was not about what he
wanted to do. He kept talking about Mitt Romney. And I think that that`s
a negativism which feeds in which hurts his likability and is going to hurt
him again...

MATTHEWS: Oh, it didn`t hurt his likability.

FEEHERY: ... with swing voters. I think it will.

MATTHEWS: It`s a good tactical argument. Let`s end with you, Howard.
Very importantly (ph), it seems to me there`s time is limited. It`s one
thing we can agree on, 20 days left. Does the president have to focus on
one objective?

It can either be to defend his record and argue how it`s going to be
better, it can either be to take apart the mathematics of Romney`s
proposals, which is the whole thing about the tax deductions and all that,
or it can be a real populist campaign.

This guy is the guy in that room in Boca Raton. He`s the man behind
the curtain. This guy wants to help the very rich, the ones who`ve had it
made like he had it made, and that`s the country he wants to rule from, the
ruling class. Go at him like Harry Truman, like a son of a B, whatever.

Can he choose among those three or does he have to keep dividing up
his time and money and attention to all three approaches?

FINEMAN: Well, that`s a profound tactical question, Chris. I`m
tempted to say he`s got to do all three, but if I had to pick one, I would
at this point pick the upbeat message because as I understand it, the loose
change out there, the undecided voters in places like Colorado and Ohio and
Virginia and so on, are women, suburban women, working women.

I think they want more of a positive message. They want a unifying
message. They want optimism and strength. If the president can embody
optimism and strength the way he did four years ago, I think that`s his
best way to go.

Let others carry the attack. Let Bill Clinton -- give Bill Clinton
the job of continuing to try to dismantle Mitt Romney. Let other people do
that. And you, Barack Obama, try to be the guy that you were four years
ago -- updated, wiser, stronger, more sophisticated than you were.

MATTHEWS: OK. So I think the best way -- we agree the best way for
him to stay in as starting pitcher and not get relieved, to use World
Series terminology, is to strike out the side. Do the job of a pitcher,
and nobody`s going to relieve you.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman. And John Feehery, in a strange
way, you had a good point to make.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Obama has to sell the future. And we all agree on that.

Coming up: President Obama won the big moments in last night`s debate,
but did he win back those key voting groups, those blocs, if you will, he
needs to win to win the election? Women, Latinos, younger voters were all
for him big last time. Can he get them energized again this time? And did
he do it last night?

And -- well, you`re not really going to hate this one. Bosses for
Romney -- there`s a growing list of CEOs around the country who are
actually ordering their employees to vote for, guess who, Mitt Romney, or
else. Talk about voter intimidation. Vote for this guy, or I`m going to
fire you.

Anyway, the presidential temperament. Both guys were feisty last
night, circling the ring sometimes like prize fighters and getting in each
other`s faces, but it was pretty clear who looked more presidential, I
think. Anyway, the great James Lipton of "Inside the Actors` Studio" joins
us again tonight to review last night`s high-level political theater.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with this new element of bad politics. We`ve
had voter suppression, voter intimidation, racial incitement and now this,
the family on the hill telling the little people down in the valley how to
vote.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Lovely pictures. Anyway, ad spending in the presidential
campaign this year has now topped $800 million and it`s on pace to hit $1
billion by election day. NBC News analyzed the data from ad-buying firm
SMG Delta. And here`s what we found. First, the Obama campaign has spent
nearly $300 million on ads. The Romney campaign has spent a little more
than that, half of that.

But when you factor in those outside groups, those super-PACs and all
that "Dirty, Angry Money" out there, the pro-Romney forces are vastly
outspending the pro-Obama forces by $455 million to $352 million.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama had a job to do
last night. In addition to debating Mitt Romney, he had to engage or
reengage key parts of his political base, get their enthusiasm up and make
sure they go to the polls 20 days from now. One group was women. Another,
Latinos. Did Obama move the needle, as they say, for these important
groups?

Well, Victoria DeFrancesca Soto is a professor at the Unfortunately of
Texas at Austin and an MSNBC contributor. Nia-Malika Henderson covers
politics for "The Washington Post."

Let`s look at this, first of all. President Obama took a question
about equal pay for women last night and turned it into a broad defense of
what he does for women -- or did for women in his first term. Let`s listen
to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When Governor Romney`s campaign was asked about the Lilly
Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, I`ll get back to you.
And that`s not the kind of advocacy women need in any economy.

Now, there`s some other issues that have a bearing on how women
succeed in the workplace. For example, their health care. Now, a major
difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable
having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women
are making. I think that`s a mistake.

In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide
contraceptive coverage to everybody who`s insured because this is not just
a health issue, it`s an economic issue for women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Nia, let me ask you this -- by the way, that president we
saw last night is the one I`ve seen in the several briefings I`ve seen,
off-the-record briefings you get before State of the Unions and stuff like
that, where he seems to be in control, pacing in his way, and being very
logical in his span of knowledge.

But let me ask you this about the women`s thing last night. I
couldn`t believe that the president was lucky enough -- it was almost like
he had a ringer last night.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: That woman brought up the Lilly Ledbetter, which is -- what
most people don`t really know about -- is a bill that requires bosses to
pay women the same amount for the same work they pay a male.

And so it seems to be deadly important to young women getting a start
in the workplace to know that they`re -- no matter how hard they work,
they are going to get paid as much as everybody else. They`re not going to
be caught with a handicap, a lower pay range just to start with.

He got into that. Romney never -- not only did he say I will get back
to you in the president`s reference there. Last night, we were all
watching in prime time, 60 million people watching, and he dodged it again.
All that Romney had to say was, well, I didn`t vote for that in Congress
because I wasn`t a member in Congress, but I would certainly support it.

He did not do that. There`s a difference of ideology for these two
people. Obama believes in intervening, and making sure equality is upheld.
The other guy is a free marketeer who believes businesses should make those
decisions. And if they decide to pay unequally, that`s their call.

He clearly takes that position. I don`t see why Obama can`t make him
pay for that.

Your thoughts.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON
POST": A missed opportunity, I think, for Mitt Romney yesterday, last
night, when he didn`t come out to say that he supported equal pay. You had
Paul Ryan come out...

MATTHEWS: Does he?

HENDERSON: You had Paul Ryan come out and say, of course it`s a team
that supports equal pay.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But wait a minute. But he opposed Lilly Ledbetter...

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: He did. He did oppose Lilly Ledbetter.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, how can he say something that is 180 from reality?

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Right.

That law, I mean, they argue that the reason they didn`t support this
law is because this law would increase lawsuits. It`s a law that really
makes it easier for women to sue around pay discrimination. It lengthens
the statute of limitations. That`s their argument. It`s sort of a Chamber
of Commerce argument in some ways.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Tom Donohue would love it.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why should any woman like it? Why should any woman like
it?

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Yes. And that`s the problem.

And they are very much going to town on this today. There were a
series of conference calls today, Lilly Ledbetter herself asking Mitt
Romney this very question, why doesn`t he support fair pay, and sort of
pushing back against this whole binders for women issue, too, basically
saying that wouldn`t have helped her when she was kind of a low-level
worker there, that that was something that might appeal to sort of
executive type women with these sorts of resumes and expanding the pool,
but for working class women, it didn`t necessarily resonate.

I think you will have a series of episodes where Romney really has to
talk about this and try to really maintain -- he`s been able to close the
gap, according to most of these goals, but I think he will have some makeup
work to do.

MATTHEWS: Well, Obama has got to ram through this with advertising
saying this guy doesn`t support equal pay or he would have said so.

Answering, last night, answering a question about fair pay for women,
Mitt Romney talked about staffing his Cabinet as governor in Massachusetts
and his effort to hire more women, as he put it.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And important topic, and one
which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as
governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a Cabinet
and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people
for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people
that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can`t we -- can`t
we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"

And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find
women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our
Cabinet.

I went to a number of women`s groups and said, "Can you help us find
folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I guess, Vicky, the problem there is -- and the reason this
I think is the subject of a lot of mirth out there, it wasn`t a binder of
resumes of women. It was a binder of women. I don`t know what image came
to mind there, but apparently a lot of fanciful notions of what a binder of
women really constituted.

What did you make of that phrase when you heard it? A number of
people said it just showed how remote he was that he had to get people to
look around for women. He didn`t know any in business, when he had spent
his life in business. Didn`t he come ever across any or hire any or work
with, or whatever. Where were his colleagues that he needed -- he had a
binder of women, not a binder of resumes of women, a binder of women?

It was a strange -- as is often with this guy, his strange, awkward,
almost non-earthly use of the language. Your thoughts?

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The first word that
came to mind when I was that last night was exactly that, awkward.

He just wasn`t connecting with women. And more specifically, he was
missing the boat with Wal-Mart moms, with those working-class women that
Nia-Malika was just mentioning. And in that term, President Obama got the
job done. These are the women who have suffered the most economically in
the past four years.

They`re trying to find a footing and he needs these women. And he did
a very good job of connecting with them, not by saying that he has binders
and loads of information about them, but that he passed the Lilly Ledbetter
Act, that he worked for health care reform and he really focused on the
economic side of women`s issues.

I think, in this case, President Obama did it. He got the job done.
And Romney was just flailing the whole night when it came to women.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think the big news for big shots like Mitt Romney is
that most people don`t have careers. They have jobs.

The purpose of the job is to pay for the family`s costs.

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: Wage earners.

MATTHEWS: And they work for wages. And the idea of wage inequality
is maddening to people, the fact they go and put 50 hours of work in a week
and they work hard and they think and they sweat and they have the worries
of the job, and then they find out that they`re getting screwed, basically.

I think that`s probably more important than anything in the world.
And I don`t know why the president doesn`t ram it home.

Anyway, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Vicky, I call you now, which I`m
glad to do as a friend...

DEFRANCESCO SOTO: Yes.

MATTHEWS: AndrMDNM_, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you so much.

Up next: much more up on Mitt Romney and his binders of women.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You can have your own joke on that one. That line has
taken off on the Internet for a variety of reasons.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Now to the "Sideshow."

Surely, you noticed that Mitt Romney`s tone last night with moderator
Candy Crowley was something. At times, he was trying to take on the role
of moderator himself.

But looking back at past debates, this is nothing new, from Anderson
Cooper in the primaries, to Jim Lehrer and then Candy Crowley. Here`s a
look back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the way -- the way
the rules work here, is that I get 60 seconds and then you get 30 seconds
to respond. Right?

ROMNEY: And the president began this segment, so I think I get the
last word, so I...

(CROSSTALK)

CANDY CROWLEY, MODERATOR: Well, I got to move you along.

And the next question is for you.

ROMNEY: He gets the first --

CROWLEY: -- and the next question --

ROMNEY: He actually got --

CROWLEY: -- for you --

ROMNEY: He actually got the first question. So I get the last
question -- last answer on that one.

Well, but he gets the first word of that segment. I get the last word
of that segment.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON COOPER, MODERATOR: I thought Republicans followed the rules.

CROWLEY: It doesn`t quite work like that. But I`m going to give you
a chance here.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: You just going to keep talking?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Let`s get back to Medicare. Let`s get back to Medicare.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Let me mention the other one. Let`s talk the other big one.

(CROSSTALK)

JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: No, no, let`s not.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: ... leave all these guys sitting here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Big shot CEO behavior in the boardroom. I think she,
Candy, by the way, heard him the first time, and so did the rest of us.

Also, the Internet exploded as soon as Mitt Romney uttered the phrase
binders full of women. It made the list of Google`s top search terms. And
some people took things a bit further with some visuals. Take a look.

Here`s Georgetown Law School graduate, of course, Sandra Fluke
sticking her head through a binder. There she is. A glass ceiling?
Broken. Or it is so dark and scary in this binder.

And, of course, the Hillary Clinton snapshot that never gets old with,
Romney still uses binders? LOL, laugh out loud.

So, binders are now some kind of a blast from the past, I guess.
Speaking of stuck in the past, though, comedian Sarah Silverman, a strong
supporter of women`s reproductive rights, tweeted about the thinking of
Mitt Romney and his partner -- quote -- "Mitt Romney is one of the most
progressive thinkers of 1950."

Finally, vote for Obama, vote for Obama, vote for somebody or vote for
Romney. That`s what a group of Harlem fourth-graders are calling for in
their viral call to get out the vote, all to the tune of "Call Me Maybe."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: A real pep rally for voter turnout.

Anyway, up next: What if your boss told you to vote for Mitt Romney
or else? Well, there`s a growing list of CEOs who are actually telling
their workers to do just that. Do you believe it in 2012?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Well, the Dow eking out a five-point gain today, the S&P adding six
and the Nasdaq up by just three. Well, IBM weighed down the Dow. The
stock sank $10 a share, or nearly 5 percent, after reporting quarterly
revenues that fell short of estimates.

After the closing bell, American Express posted earnings that were in
line with expectations. Revenue was a tad light, though. The shares are
lower in after-hours trade.

And housing starts jumped 15 percent last month, much more than
expected.

And that is it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back over
to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Here`s a scary trend, a growing list of pro-Romney CEOs trying to
scare their employees by essentially saying if Obama wins the election, you
should fear for your jobs.

Well, let`s take a look at some of them. David Siegel is the CEO of a
Florida real estate firm and the infamous owner of the largest home in the
country, if that makes you infamous. He told employees -- quote -- "If any
new taxes are levied on me or my company, as our current president plans, I
will have no choice but to reduce the size of the company."

And in an e-mail to employees with the subject line, "Will the U.S.
Presidential Election Directly Impact Your Future Jobs at ASG?" CEO Arthur
Allen wrote -- quote -- "If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on
November 6, and we lose our independence as a company, I don`t want to hear
any complaints regarding the fallout that will cost" -- well, actually,
"will most likely come."

And does this kind of fear-mongering cross the line?

Well, let`s find out. John Nichols is Washington bureau chief for
"The Nation." And Chrystia Freeland is editor of The Thomson Reuters
Digital and the author of a great new book, "The Plutocrats," in fact,
without the definite article, "Plutocrats."

So, I want to start with you. This kind of old -- it reminds me of
"Brassed Off," one of those British Labor and Tory Party fights where the
men on the hill, four or five of them, live in the big houses, look down in
the valley, the Colliery people, and they tell those coal diggers, you
better vote Republican, or in that case Tory.

This doesn`t smack of the 21st century, Chrystia.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR AT LARGE, REUTERS: Well, or,
actually, maybe it is the new 21st century, right, because income
inequality today, the gap between those bosses on the hill and everybody
else is greater than it has been at any other time in history.

We like to think we live in this sort of Internet democracy, we`re all
the same, we all wear khakis, but the reality is, the gap between the
plutocrats and everybody is a yawning chasm. And so actually I couldn`t
have made this stuff up for my book.

MATTHEWS: I know. It`s pretty awful.

FREELAND: You know?

MATTHEWS: Anyway, David, I want you in here -- John, here, listen to
what David Siegel, one of these guys involved here, he`s one of the CEOs,
talks about the people that work for him.

In an interview with "Bloomberg BusinessWeek" -- quote -- "I have
always looked out for their best interest. We`re like a family. They`re
like my children. And I`m the Jewish mother telling them to eat their
spinach and vote for Romney."

Maybe this worked once, but referring to his grownup adults, male and
female, working hard and taking care of their real families at home who
need the food and the education money and all the other stuff, to call them
your children is weird.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": It`s weird and it`s insulting.

These are human beings, adults who have taken a job and probably
sweated hard to make him rich. And to come at them with this is an
unsettling thing.

But we have to understand, as we`re hearing from our friend here, we
live in a different era now. Unions, much weaker. We don`t have the union
density that we even had in 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for
reelection. Workplaces, much less stable, much less secure.

And so when your boss comes along and says, boy, if you don`t reelect
-- or you don`t elect Romney, there could be some real trouble around here,
I think it has resonance. I think it does scare some otherwise strong
people who may be deeply insulted, but yet at the end of the day, they do
think about it.

MATTHEWS: So, the smart move here is not to say, I`m your boss, I`m
cracking the whip. The smart boss is saying, hey, we`re all in this
together, if we go down, you go down.

FREELAND: Exactly. Yes.

The smart -- if we were to be a communications team for a Republican
CEO, I think we would suggest that the memo should say, it`s in our shared
interests to go...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It hurts me to limit your choices, but...

Anyway, is Obama right as anti-business and anti-growth as these
people make him out to be? Look at this nonsensical quote from Mr. Siegel,
the aforementioned. "I wanted to let my employees to know what will come
if they make the wrong choice. They need to worry if Obama gets reelected.
The company is doing the best we have done in our history. We`re making
lots of money, but we`re not growing."

OK. We`re doing as best -- is this some weird Yogi Bear-ism? We`re
making a lot of money, we`re selling a lot of stuff, but we`re not growing.
In other words, we have got to vote Republican.

FREELAND: No.

NICHOLS: These are the best of the times. I have never been doing
better. I`m building the bigger house in the world.

MATTHEWS: By the way, this is the macro reality today.

NICHOLS: Yes.

MATTHEWS: The Wall Street -- the stock market, the Dow, it`s climbing
to 14000. It`s going to break all records. My belief, it is because it`s
a jobless recovery because that`s the business plan.

NICHOLS: And...

MATTHEWS: Cut costs by cutting intermediate management -

FREELAND: Right. Right. Right. Right.

MATTHEWS: -- reduce salaries, reduce packages with health care and do with
machines.

FREELAND: Or people outside the United States.

NICHOLS: And that`s where --

FREELAND: No, Chris, this is the great mystery of the rage of the
plutocrats, because the reality when you look at the numbers, actually,
Barack Obama has been a pretty good president for the plutocrats. As you
say, Chris, the stock market has recovered. Clinton was, too. The stock
market has recovered.

It`s the middle class that`s --

MATTHEWS: So, what`s driving -- what drives a guy who makes a ton of
money, and has a lot of power, or woman, to be fair --

FREELAND: There aren`t that many women.

MATTHEWS: OK. What makes it a plutocrat, as you call this? Why do
they vote Republican? Is it they don`t like having a president who knocks
them? They`re embarrassed by their children when the president comes --
the president says, you`re a bad -- he doesn`t say it that. He says, they
should all pay they`re fair share.

NICHOLS: It`s something else all together. They`re looking for an
incredible promise. No rules. And understand --

MATTHEWS: That`s what Romney said last night. He wants it to be a
playpen where everybody in the world -- or cowboy, market (ph) cowboy,
comes in this country because there`s no EPA, there`s no taxes, there`s no
-- there`s no capital gains. Everything is like -- there`s no estate
taxes. Everything is great.

FREELAND: I think the --

MATTHEWS: Did you hear what he said last night?

FREELAND: Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS: How great he wants it to be. His idea of a great America
is make all huge amounts of money you can at the top.

FREELAND: Yes, it is. It is. I think that`s part of it, of course.
I mean, wouldn`t it be great to live in a world without a sheriff if you`re
one of the guys with guns? But I think also that Jewish mother comment
gets at another reason why these guys feel so hurt and offended by Obama.

They really see themselves in their own vision of the world, they see
themselves as the heroes of the American story -- not only as rich, but as
virtuous. As people who have the key to successful for the whole country.
And Obama -- and I think a very delicate and subtle way, is challenging
that.

MATTHEWS: That`s right. He just doesn`t like us.

These comments from David Siegel, the man mentioned in "Bloomberg,"
quote, "If only businessmen voted in the election Romney would win 99-1.
We businessmen are so tired of being vilified when we create all the jobs
and pay most of the taxes. Thank God I come to work every day and employ
7,000 people."

Virtuous, they`re like the characters in Ayn Rand. They`re the ones
who carried the earth on their shoulders.

NICHOLS: That is why when Mitt Romney was in trouble in August and
he needed to kind of rally his base, which is these guys, he went to Paul
Ryan because they know Paul Ryan from that world.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t about deficit reduction.

NICHOLS: No.

MATTHEWS: This isn`t about debt reduction.

NICHOLS: No rules.

MATTHEWS: This is about money going to the top as fast as he can
wire it.

Anyway, "Plutocrats," there it is, Chrystia Freeland, great work --
exactly on target for this election.

Thank you very much, John Nichols of "The Nation."

Up next, last night`s debate was feisty, of course. We learned a lot
about both candidates based on their presence on the stage. It`s what
we`re going to talk about. The one and only James Lipton of "Inside the
Actors Studio" is coming here to review the theater of last night, which
was really something to be sitting right there.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I`m here in New York, of course. Tomorrow, I`ll be at the
big Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner. The dinner honors the former New
York governor who was the first Roman Catholic presidential candidate back
in `28. And the presidential candidates have been coming to it since Jack
Kennedy and Richard Nixon were invited back in 1960.

Tomorrow, Mitt Romney and President Obama will both be on the stage
within a couple feet of each other again, and while it probably or may not
get as hot as it did last night in Hempstead, we can expect the two rivals
to trade a few barbs over the dinner table.

It should be a great night and always is.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mr. President, have you
looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve got to say --

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I don`t look at my pension. It`s not as big as
yours so it doesn`t take as long.

ROMNEY: Well, let me --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

We witnessed high drama last night in the presidential debate. Who
better to analyze it than "Inside the Actors Studio" host, James Lipton,
who joins us right now.

So, you`ve been looking, I`m told by friends of ours, that you`ve
been trying to find out where exists the soul, the person of Mitt Romney.
Did you find him last night?

JAMES LIPTON, BRAVO`S "INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO": I believe I did.
You know, this all began in "The New York Times" with that political comic
strip in their Sunday section showed him coming to me for acting advice.
That`s what started this whole thing.

Then I wrote the piece for NewYorkmag.com and then all of this
happened. I was on your show. And so, I got this new political career. I
don`t -- I`m not sure why.

In any event, yes, I have been trying to chase him down. He`s very
elusive -- elusive for you and elusive for me. He tends to change
character rather quickly.

And last night -- I`ve been coming to this conclusion for some time
but last night I suddenly said, yes, that`s who he is. He is that boss who
tells lame jokes and waits for everybody to laugh or else. And who keeps
us forever off-balance, uncertain and anxious. And that, for me -- that is
who he is. He is that boss.

On the other hand, Obama last night, especially when Libya came up
and he turned suddenly and he fixed his opponent with this vasovist (ph)
stare and he began to talk to him very quietly but with seething anger
underneath, because he had been accused of politicizing --

MATTHEWS: Let`s watch that. Let`s watch that very point. We saw a
dramatic face-off as you mentioned, between President Obama and Governor
Romney over that embassy attack in Libya, which was so tragic. Of course,
we lost Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the
secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team, would play
politics or mislead when we`ve lost four of our own, Governor, is
offensive. That`s not what we do. That`s not what I do as president.
That`s not what I do as commander-in-chief.

ROMNEY: I think it`s interesting. The president just said something
which is that on the day after the attack, he went to Rose Garden and he
said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That`s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was
an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.

OBAMA: Please proceed.

ROMNEY: Is that what you`re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it
took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act
of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: He did, in fact, sir. So let me
call it an act of terror.

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, one thing I just realized right there, James, is
that he didn`t challenge Candy. Once she said it, that was the umpire`s
call.

LIPTON: And when the president said, proceed, Governor, you`re about
to walk off a cliff, and I`m not going to stop you, pal.

You know what it was? You love movies.

MATTHEWS: I love them.

LIPTON: It was the face off at high noon.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LIPTON: And the president of the United States was Gary Cooper. At
that moment, he became a hero, I think, and he was also very presidential.

MATTHEWS: So she was Grace Kelly and shot the bad guy in the back,
remember? Sounds like a great scene.

LIPTON: But I`m ready to make a pronouncement that may go no further
than this desk and it`s just my opinion. My opinion is I think America is
now faced with a very clear choice. Does it want a president or a boss?

And Romney would have no objection to being characterized as a boss
because that`s how he presents himself, as a CEO, he prefers to call it a
job creator with that halo around the top.

MATTHEWS: And likes to fire people.

LIPTON: Right. That`s the point.

Job creator is euphemism for job for-profit creator and creating
profit often involves firing people.

MATTHEWS: Right.

LIPTON: So he wouldn`t mind being called a boss. So I really think
that one of the profound decisions the American people have to make now is
whether they want to be governed by a president or a boss and I mean a
boss.

MATTHEWS: Well, about 15 minutes in last night, the town hall got
heated with a confrontation over drilling on federal land, which may not be
interesting to a lot of people but let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on
federal land and federal waters in half.

OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.

ROMNEY: So how much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: Not true.

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?

OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil --

ROMNEY: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on
federal land and federal waters?

OBAMA: Governor Romney, here`s what we did. There were a whole
bunch of oil companies.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: No, no, I had a question and the question was how much did
you cut them by?

OBAMA: You want me to answer a question --

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: I`m happy to answer the question.

ROMNEY: All right. And it is --

I don`t think anyone really believes that you`re a person who`s going
to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. You`ll get your chance in a
moment. I`m still speaking.

OBAMA: Well --

ROMNEY: And the answer is I don`t believe people think that`s the
case because --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: -- that wasn`t the question.

OBAMA: OK.

ROMNEY: That was a statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, a couple points. I don`t think he understands
the Constitution of the United States. He`s the president of the United
States. You don`t say, you`ll get your chance.

And secondly, under the rules of the debate, to which he subscribed,
as we`re all gravitized now, there will be no questioning of one candidate
by the other. He subscribed to that, yet he`s a literalist when it comes
to the Constitution.

LIPTON: Oh, yes.

MATTHEWS: But not in any deal he`s cut. Your thoughts, James?

LIPTON: If Mitt Romney were the president and Barack Obama were the
challenger and these roles were reversed and Obama treated Romney, the
president, in this construct the way he was treated, you would have heard
an outcry from coast to coast and you would never, ever hear the end of it.

It is rude, it`s inexcusable. I think it`s a very, very sad day when
the presidency, which has been under fire since Nixon, and particularly
this president can be treated this way by someone who is an American
citizen.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, I think it`s a lack of deference. I thought
in the first debate, he covered up or masked his lack of deference with
some opening cordiality and civility. But through it all, he looked down
at the president, he looked down on him as a person. And I think a lot of
that, not only when we get into, but we can all imagine what that was based
upon, and none of it good.

Your thoughts on that? I don`t think he respects the president as a
person?

LIPTON: I can`t say that because I don`t know. I can`t read his
mind. It`s very hard to read that mind. In any event, I`d like to read
his tax returns.

But he is -- I find him very, very mysterious. Is he looking down on
the president? I wouldn`t be at all surprised. A lot of people look down
on this president. And as you said, there are some reasons for it, that
perhaps --

MATTHEWS: Many of them bad. Any way, thank you, James. It`s always
an honor. We hope to get you back after the last debate.

LIPTON: I`ll be back.

MATTHEWS: The final.

Anyway, when we return, let me finish with the wealthy people now
telling the little people how to vote.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

There`s something old and bad combining in this campaign finish.
You`ve seen the efforts of Republicans to kill the vote of minorities, all
this suppression out there. You`ve seen the moves to intimidate minority
voters by scaring them from the polling places.

And you`ve heard the words of racial denunciation dripping from the
lips of Republicans and their backers on the right. The Glenn Beck claim
that Obama is a racist, the Rush Limbaugh dirt balling, John Sununu
demanded Obama act like an American, Newt Gingrich claiming that Obama is a
food stamp president, the trash talk of Donald Trump spouting looniness
about the president being an impostor, some figure born in East Africa who
managed to con us, his cat call to the president, money, with last month`s
jobless numbers.

Well, the Romney talking about welfare and how Obama undermined the
work requirement to, quote, "feed his base."

The Republican Senate candidate`s son in Wisconsin the other day
saying the president should go back to Kenya.

Now comes the news tonight of how employers are intimidating their
employees in the voting Republican.

Is this the kind of democracy people actually believe in? Voter
suppression, voter intimidation, racial agitation, bosses telling workers
how to vote. Are people actually proud of doing this kind of thing? Do
they really believe this is what the Founding Fathers risked their lives
and sacred honor for? This stuff?

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

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

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