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updated 10/23/2012 10:28:58 AM ET 2012-10-23T14:28:58

HARDBALL
October 22, 2012

Guests: Beau Biden, David Ignatius, Stephanie Cutter, Gloria Steinem, Nia-Malika Henderson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: War talk.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews at Lynn University in Boca Raton,
Florida, site of the third and final presidential debate.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Romney -- war. When I hear Mitt
Romney speak about foreign policy, it`s always toughness. When I hear "We
got to get tough," I hear war. Surrounded as he is by the same people who
were W`s advisers, I feel its presence even stronger, war.

Does America want a war? In recent years, we`ve had wars going on in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we now want another one with a far more powerful,
more modern Islamic country? The implication of Romney`s tough talk in
Iran is that we can commit an act of out-and-out war against that country
without actually using the word "war." We attack their nuclear sites, they
say uncle, and that`s the end of it.

That`s what people like General Curtis Lemay said 50 years ago during
the Cuban missile crisis, just knock out those Soviet missiles in Cuba.
They won`t do anything. Well, it turned out the Soviets had no intention
of doing nothing.

Nikita Khrushchev had plans to hit New York and said so in his
memoirs. Quote, "I knew that the United States could knock out some of our
missiles. Even if only one or two big ones were left, we could still hit
New York. An awful lot of people would have been wiped out."

Consequences. Understand the consequences. That`s what foreign
policy is about. War isn`t a policy. It`s often a declaration of failure.
We have no idea what the mullahs in Tehran plan to do if we attack. They
could unleash Hezbollah and its tens of thousands of rockets on Israel,
unlash Hamas in Gaza, forcing Israel to invade and try to knock out the
rocket sites in both lands, killing any number of civilians. Where would
we be then?

Mr. Romney`s performance in foreign affairs, from his clumsy trip to
Europe, where he managed to insult our British hosts, to hi "shoot first
and ask questions later" toward the tragedy in Libya suggests not a smart
global diplomat, but a bull who brings his china shop with him.

I`m joined by the HuffingtonPost`s Howard Fineman, "New York"
magazine`s John Heilemann, and Delaware attorney general Beau Biden.

Our guest, our special guest must begin and answer the first question.
You will not like this question, sir, Mr. Attorney General.

BEAU BIDEN (D), DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL: It`s HARDBALL. It`s
HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: General -- can I call you "General"?

BIDEN: Beau`s good.

MATTHEWS: I`m going to call you General.

BIDEN: All right. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, does Romney win if it`s a tie...

BIDEN: Look...

MATTHEWS: ... tonight?

BIDEN: Look...

MATTHEWS: Does he win if it`s a tie?

BIDEN: The president is going to be...

MATTHEWS: OK.

BIDEN: ... the strong, decisive commander-in-chief that he always has
been and talk about how he has been such a -- look, he`s been the most
decisive, strong commander-in-chief in my lifetime. He`s done what he said
he was going to do as a candidate. He ended the war in Iraq.

You have Mitt Romney talking about whether or not depends (ph), about
whether or not we should even take troops out. In Afghanistan, the
president of the United States has set us on a timeline to take us out of
Afghanistan. On that front, I`m unclear as to what Governor Romney says
about that. As it relates to bin Laden, the president of the United States
hunted down Osama bin Laden.

MATTHEWS: Where did you learn all this?

BIDEN: Wait, wait, wait! And the congressman...

MATTHEWS: So`s your old man!

BIDEN: The Congress...

MATTHEWS: Your father taught you this, right?

BIDEN: The congressman and the governor said they wouldn`t move
heaven and earth to go get bin Laden.

MATTHEWS: OK, that`s the strong advocacy case. Now I want an
objective opinion. Howard Fineman, does the president have to win tonight?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, yes. This is his area of strength as Beau was saying.

MATTHEWS: If Romney ties him, is that a win?

FINEMAN: As Beau was saying. Yes, I think, as a matter of pure
politics and political competition, if Mitt Romney, whose doctrine we don`t
know...

MATTHEWS: He could be anything.

FINEMAN: Is there a Romney doctrine? What is it? If Mitt Romney`s
able to answer that question and stay stride for stride with the president
on an area where the president is clearly strong -- I mean, he did get
Osama bin Laden. He is using the drones to go after al Qaeda. He is
getting troops out of Iraq. He is -- has a plan on Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: OK...

FINEMAN: If Mitt Romney can match that with depth and specificity and
answer the questions about neocons, et cetera, then, yes, Mitt Romney will
win.

MATTHEWS: Same question. Does the president have to win tonight to
get through this?

JOHN HEILEMANN, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
President Obama is an eminently credible and successful commander-in-chief.
If Mitt Romney ties Barack Obama, it means he`s looked like an eminently
credible and successful commander-in-chief. And if he ties him on that
score, he wins because he looks like a credible alternative.

MATTHEWS: Well said. If the -- you close your eyes and listen to
Romney talk about foreign policy, sometimes you can be forgiven for
thinking you`re hearing George W. Bush. Here`s what Romney early this
month -- here he is, giving a major foreign policy speech. Does this
language sound like W? Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We can`t support
our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are
not backed up by deeds.

America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose, and
resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to
support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to
defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America`s
capability to back up our words.

I`ll put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our
friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons
capability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, the way he says that, Beau -- he says it with
such absolute certitude, that he will not let them do it. Well, the only
way you can ultimately do that, if you fail with the diplomatic effort
which the president`s pursuing, you fail with the economic sanctions, which
the president and the world is pursuing -- he speaks with absolute power
that he will just do it. He doesn`t talk about the costs or the
consequences. We`re just going to do it.

BIDEN: I`m so tired of hearing people pound their chests. We went
through this before. You know, we...

MATTHEWS: With W.

BIDEN: With W. What you have to do -- when you have a person like
Governor Romney, who has no foreign policy experience, you have to look
about to the people who he`s (ph) advising, who his retainers are. We`ve
been through this before in 2000. Governor Bush had no foreign policy
experience, and look who he chose to align himself with, the
neoconservatives that got us into two wars.

MATTHEWS: Do you think John Bolton would be a good secretary of
state?

BIDEN: Well, the majority of his folks that are advising him are
neoconservatives like John Bolton.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Howard, he has surrounded himself -- I know he throws
in a Robert Zoellick here and there. But you got Bolton, you`re got Senor,
who seem to have his ear.

FINEMAN: Yes. Clearly. And I think that`s one reason why Mitt
Romney reacted to strongly and peremptorily and ill-advisedly on Benghazi
originally. He`s jumped in repeatedly because Dan Senor is telling him to
jump in, and other people of that type.

MATTHEWS: Well, even the phrase "New American century" is right out
of the playbook.

FINEMAN: The key question that the president has to ask, if Bob
Schieffer doesn`t ask, is what precisely, specifically would Mitt Romney do
differently? Get specific, Mitt, and that`s the challenge for Romney
tonight.

MATTHEWS: What about this big story that`s out there, John, about the
president having committed to, at some level of government, to meet with
Ahmadinejad, his government people, and try to work this out one on one
after the election? The president`s denied that, but administration
sources are quoted in "The New York Times" piece.

HEILEMANN: Well, look, if it`s true, it`s a good thing. I mean, you
know, if we can -- if we can avert Iran getting a nuclear weapon through
diplomacy and sanctions...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, what will Mitt say about that tonight?

HEILEMANN: ... that will be a victory. Well, what Dan Senor said
this morning on "MORNING JOE" when I asked him about it was that Governor
Romney has always been in favor of the diplomatic approach to Iran. If you
go back to March, when Governor Romney was on an XM radio show, he was
asked, Do you support a first strike against Iran? He said yes.

MATTHEWS: When did he flip?

HEILEMANN: Well, apparently...

BIDEN: After he got the nomination.

HEILEMANN: Apparently, he now -- he said, Yes, I support a first
strike. We must have a military intervention to keep them from getting
that technology.

MATTHEWS: OK...

HEILEMANN: And this morning, Dan Senor says, No, no, he`s always been
in favor of...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is the Romney conundrum.

BIDEN: It`s Etch-A-Sketch again!

FINEMAN: It`s because Mitt Romney was desperate to nail down every
conservative and ultra-conservative vote he could get in the primary
season. And that`s why he was making those tough, severely conservative...

MATTHEWS: Yes, the evangelicals wanted to hear that.

FINEMAN: The evangelicals wanted to hear it. Some of the neocons
wanted to hear it.

MATTHEWS: OK...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s the question, though. And Beau, I don`t know if you
can handle this at all because you have a partisan view, obviously, with
your dad running as VP. But here`s what I don`t know. I`ve have heard
from inside guys -- I guess it was off the record, so I won`t say who it
was -- top name we`ve just mentioned a few minutes ago, that the neocons,
the real ideologues who are backing Romney, don`t know for sure whether
he`s a fellow ideologue or a just complete pragmatic guy who could go any
direction on Iran or any of these issues, including the West Bank.

FINEMAN: Well, it`s convenient that they -- it`s convenient that they
leak that notion now.

BIDEN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, this is a while ago, but they do. You think it`s
convenient for them...

FINEMAN: I think it`s convenient for them to sow confusion.
Ironically, this is a case where their strongest case for Mitt Romney is
that we don`t know what he really believes.

BIDEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want Beau to get in here. Beau, you got -- are you
running against a right-winger on foreign policy or a pragmatist who`s a
flip-flopper?

BIDEN: He`s hired the same people that got us into the mess we got
into 10 years ago. He`s hired -- retained the exact same people, whether
it be John Bolton, Kagan or Dan Senor, who had one of the toughest
diplomatic missions representing -- probably the most failed ambassador
we`ve had in a generation, for Jerry Bremer, you know?

So these are the people that he`s retained that we have to look -- the
American -- this is -- this is really important. We have 6,539 people we
lost in these two wars. Afghanistan, we had the longest war.

MATTHEWS: You were in Afghanistan.

BIDEN: I was in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: We have over 50,000 people injured, you know? On top of
foreign policy, if I could, say, Howard, veterans piece (ph). I`m not
confident that Governor Romney understands what the commitment means to
veterans. You know, he proposed the voucherization of the VA, to
voucherize the VA, not dissimilar to what Congressman Ryan wants to do to
Medicare. This is a sacred trust we have with our veterans. I`m not sure
he understands what it is.

He talks tough about increasing the budget for the military $2
trillion beyond what the Joint Chiefs have asked for. Do you know, Chris,
that the president has put us on a path to spend $5.8 trillion on our
military. That`s more than the 11 closest allies, including China and
Russia, spend, $5.8 trillion.

MATTHEWS: OK. We got a new -- a new Obama ad out today. It
contrasts the president`s handling of Iraq and Afghanistan with what Romney
has said he`ll do. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A decade of war that cost us dearly, and now for
president, a clear choice. President Obama ended the Iraq war. Mitt
Romney would have left 30,000 troops there and called bringing them home
tragic. Obama`s brought 30,000 soldiers back from Afghanistan and has a
responsible plan to end the war. Romney calls it Obama`s biggest mistake.
It`s time to stop fighting over there and start rebuilding here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So of (ph) all (ph) that you thought about with the wars we
were fighting, and you`re trying to pick your candidate in the next two
week, is there a difference in terms of getting out of Afghanistan, for
example? I thought they were both committed to 2014. Aren`t they?

FINEMAN: Yes, but there is a -- but there is a difference in terms of
the emphases that they`re highlighting in this ad. There were several
times where Mitt Romney has said more troops, keep the troops, stay the
course.

HEILEMANN: No date certain.

FINEMAN: No date certain. And so the differences that exist are the
ones they highlight in that ad, and it`s a smart thing for the Obama
campaign to do because those are popular positions, as well as skillful
ones.

MATTHEWS: John?

HEILEMANN: The country is sick to death of war. We are a war -- a
war-weary country. That ad goes directly to the war-weariness of the
country. It says there`s a clear choice.

What Mitt Romney is going to try to do tonight, and it makes sense for
him strategically, is to try to muddy up the clarity of the choice. I`ll
say again, Dan Senor this morning on both Iran and on Afghanistan was,
like, basically saying Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are shoulder to
shoulder. We`re in exactly the same place. We`re essentially the same.
But just don`t -- they`re not -- there`s not a dime`s worth of difference
between these candidates, because they know that there`s no payoff
electorally right now to bellicosity. There`s not. There`s no voter...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... a wolf in sheep`s clothing here the last couple weeks,
right?

FINEMAN: Yes, and it`s also of a piece with Romney`s entire strategy
for these debates, two parts of the strategy, attack ferociously
stylistically...

HEILEMANN: Yes.

FINEMAN: ... but behave like a moderate.

MATTHEWS: Oh, I know. You -- and by the way, that is amazing
politics, to be able to sell yourself out to every right-wing evangelical
neocon group, every supply-side guy, give Norquist what he wants, and let
the center think you`re this regular moderate governor of New Hampshire --
of Massachusetts.

FINEMAN: Well, people coming to the debates, a lot of them are seeing
him for first time. They weren`t in Iowa. They weren`t in South Carolina.
They weren`t in Florida. And Mitt Romney`s counting on that. His people
are counting on it.

HEILEMANN: But let`s be clear. He sold himself the same way to
Israel itself, and not just to the neocons in America, but he`s been over
there basically telling Bibi Netanyahu that he`ll be much tougher than the
president on Iran, much closer to Israel, much more hard-line.

This is something he`s projected not just within America but to one of
our key allies, our key ally in the region.

FINEMAN: Yes, doing that, knowing full well it`ll get back to the
people here.

HEILEMANN: Yes, of course.

BIDEN: If Governor Romney was serious about foreign policy and
protecting our national interest, he would have chosen someone as his
running mate that had foreign experience. Paul Ryan said when asked what
is foreign policy experience, is that, I`ve sent soldiers to war. That`s
not foreign policy experience.

I`m not sure these guys get it. We`ve been at war for -- this will be
the longest war this nation has fought. And Governor Romney continues to
talk in ways that are, you know, pounding his chest about actually opening
opportunities for additional forces in Afghanistan? That`s what my father
nailed down Paul Ryan on at the debate that you say. He suggested, Paul
Ryan did, putting additional troops in the most dangerous part of the most
dangerous country in the world.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BIDEN: In the most dangerous country in the world. Ask these people,
Republican or Democrat, whether they think that`s a good idea.

MATTHEWS: You know what I like? Women should talk about women`s
issues and guys who have fought in wars ought to talk about wars. That`s
my view, especially when they`re for them.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman, as always, John Heilemann, and Beau
Biden.

Coming up: Mitt Romney has swung and missed twice trying to hit the
president on Libya. Tonight, he`ll get a third shot. The president better
be prepared to answer some tough questions. Also, feminist icon Gloria
Steinem will be right here a little bit later to talk about the fight for
female votes and why she says Mitt Romney is the worst presidential
candidate for women in her lifetime.

Plus, heading into the final stretch of the race, what are the
messages that will move voters in key swing states? The latest NBC/"Wall
Street Journal" poll has the race totally tied up, which means everything
matters. And tonight may be the last best chance for either candidate to
make a strong push.

And "Let Me Finish" with some words about a lost hero, George
McGovern.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Boca Raton for the
final presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from Boca Raton for the
final presidential debate.

The dominant issue tonight is sure to be Libya and the
administration`s response to the death of four Americans in Benghazi on
September 11 of this year. Can President Obama effectively respond to his
Republicans` criticism? And is this one topic of foreign policy tonight
where Mitt Romney feels he might be able to gain some points with his
attacks?

David Ignatius is associate editor and columnist for "The Washington
Post." David Corn is an MSNBC analyst, as well as the author of "47
percent."

David Ignatius, the first question was, was Susan Rice, the ambassador
to the United Nations, when she went on "MEET THE PRESS" on September 16th,
five days after the assault on our consulate that cost the life of Chris
Stevens -- was she speaking on the level with the best intel she had?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "WASHINGTON POST": Amazingly enough, because she has
been attacked so stridently for her comments, she was stating almost word
for word the talking points the CIA had prepared the previous day,
September 15.

I know that because I was given by a senior intelligence official a
copy of those talking points, and they included the phrase that she got
hammered for about the spontaneous inspiration for the Benghazi events
being what had happened to Cairo.

That view was revised a little bit since then, but what`s amazing, a
month after these events, is that our intelligence analysts still aren`t
sure exactly what led to that attack on the compound in Benghazi. And if
Mitt Romney tries to claim otherwise, he`s going against our most senior
intelligence people.

MATTHEWS: Well, Governor Romney seems to be making the point that it
had nothing to do with the video, the anti-Islamic video that came out of
Los Angeles. Did it have something to do with that, according to the best
intel?

IGNATIUS: So Chris, let me tell you what I heard from the
intelligence officials, and then you and your viewers can decide. Their
intelligence is that some of the people who attacked the compound on the
night of September 11 had been watching the events in Cairo live. They`d
been watching Al Jazeera or whatever network it was showing the protests at
the American embassy in Cairo about the video.

They also know that in addition to watching this, they talked among
themselves about what was happening in Cairo, and then they went to the
consulate compound. They don`t have intelligence that has them planning
specifically what they would do or why they would go. That, unfortunately,
is still a missing piece of the puzzle.

But that`s what leads them to say there was some link between what
happened in Cairo and these people gathering at the compound and then
assaulting it.

MATTHEWS: Well, was the difference then between the initial intel and
the later intel that the initial intel said it was spontaneous, or
suggested that the protest and the assault on our diplomats -- on our
diplomats and the killing actually of Chris Stevens was spontaneous, and
their later assessment that it was in fact opportunistic, which means they
wanted to do it, they saw their chance with what was going on in Cairo, the
anger of the people over there about the video?

IGNATIUS: I think the honest answer is that they still aren`t exactly
sure how this came together.

The official used with me the phrase a flash mob with weapons. But
it`s clear that the group included Syria`s hard-core terrorists. There
were probably member of the al Qaeda in the Maghreb, the al Qaeda affiliate
in North Africa. There were members of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, which
is a group of very extremist people in Benghazi.

There were people who were unarmed who were kind of along as looters
who wandered in and just took stuff. It was kind of a ragtag group.
That`s probably why they think it wasn`t as coordinated as some reports
suggested.

I think one point for me, Chris, as somebody who follows intelligence,
is that these guys are assembling shards, different fragments, and they
don`t all fit, and they sometimes contradict each other. And when things
like this get politicized, as this did so extraordinarily in the debates,
you look for a kind of certainty that the analysts don`t have.

MATTHEWS: Thanks so much for joining us, David Ignatius.

President Obama addressed Libya in his interview with Jon Stewart last
week. Let`s watch.

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

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": The difficulty,
the perception seemed to be that State was on a different page than you or
that you had Susan Rice five days afterwards saying on shows, well, this
video and -- could have been a part of that, and then other people were...

(CROSSTALK)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jon, the truth is, is
that information comes in, folks put it out throughout the process. People
say it`s still incomplete. What I was always clear about was, we`re going
to do an investigation and figure out exactly what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You know, people are always telling me to calm down, but I
wonder if at some point you have to be a little more eruptive than the
president right there.

He seems so almost blase in answering these questions. Why doesn`t he
take the initiative and every day tell us what he`s learned new and be
aggressive? We want to know, and he`s the guy who tells us.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there`s a couple different
issues. One is, first of all, what are we going to do about it? That`s
the presidential question to guarantee that the people who did this will
feel some pain and there will be retribution at the end of an
investigation.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: The other point is what went wrong in terms of the State
Department and not providing the right amount of security.

That`s an issue for the State Department and Congress to sort of work
out. Then the third issue is, you know, which you asked at the beginning,
was there any deception in terms of the White House trying to cover things
up?

MATTHEWS: Yes, because Romney has been charging that.

CORN: Which is what -- the Romney charge. Lindsey Graham, Darrell
Issa...

MATTHEWS: Right.

CORN: ... they have all been on that.

And I think so far, the evidence is that there`s no purposeful
deception. Remember what happened at the end of the bin Laden raid
afterwards. The administration came out and every day they kind of tweaked
the story because new information was coming in. And there`s a rush now
these days to put out what you know as soon as you know it, whether it`s
right or wrong.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s preview tonight. Preview tonight.

Will the president try to be dismiss -- dispense with this question
first go-round? On his account, I would be worried if it went on all
night. If you had an hour-and-a-half with half of it taken up with Libya,
I think he loses tonight.

CORN: I don`t think it can go on that long.

What does Mitt Romney have to say about it?

MATTHEWS: Keep asking questions, keep challenging.

CORN: He can keep asking questions, but I thought last week the
president was very effective in saying, I take responsibility. We`re going
after these guys. And these are my people. I send them out there.

He was very strong and fierce. No reason to think he won`t be that
way tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let`s take a look at the point where he won.

This is the part last week in the debate with Candy Crowley as the
moderator, which everybody will probably always talk about, where Romney
thought he had him by saying the president didn`t call it an act of terror
in the beginning. And here he is with -- facing up to Candy Crowley sort
of fact-checking here. Let`s watch that from the debate last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- I think interesting the
president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the
attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of
terror.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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, 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, MODERATOR: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So
let me -- let me call it an act of terror...

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

CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Knowing Romney`s personality to the extent we all do, I
expect he will revisit that. He will rip that scab and start all over
again right at that point, saying somehow he was right in the larger
context.

CORN: I think he`s going to get to a temperamental question too.

He is going to say, listen, when this first happened, you rushed out
and you said you thought you knew what was happening. You got it wrong.
If you`re president of the United States, if you`re commander in chief, you
don`t make rash statements or rash actions. And, you know...

MATTHEWS: So he will hit him on the top from it?

(CROSSTALK)

CORN: We do it right. You want to make this politics?

I think there are so many openings for the president on this. I
wouldn`t go into this if you`re an Obama supporter worried that he`s going
to be taken to the cleaners on this.

MATTHEWS: Well, I think we`re talking Libya tonight. It may not be
the most important issue of our time, but it will be tonight, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, David Corn.

And David Ignatius, great reporting.

Up next: more from Boca Raton, Florida, and our coverage of the final
presidential debate.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: We`re here at Lynn University in Boca Raton. That`s how
you pronounce it. It`s spelled Boca Raton, but it`s pronounced -- right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boca Raton. Boca Raton.

MATTHEWS: Boca Raton.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is like Roosevelt and Roosevelt. We got to get this
straight.

Who are you for?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me show your cheek. I guess you`re for that guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am for Obama.

MATTHEWS: Why?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Well, I voted him four years ago, and I`m
originally from New York, so, of course, we come from a Democratic state
and...

MATTHEWS: Well, do you vote for your state?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s keep moving. You sound like a collectivist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Emily Miller (ph), and I`m for Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Why do you -- why do you two disagree? What`s your issue?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We disagree because we need to start supporting
small businesses and getting our economy...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you got the line down. You got the line down.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christina Lewis (ph) for Obama.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

Where are you from?

CORN: Jonathan Alex (ph). And I`m for President Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chelsea Pollack (ph) and I`m for Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: Oh. Sororities seem to be for Mitt -- no.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I`m for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) And I`m for Obama. Whew!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mikaya Flanagan (ph). And I`m for Obama.

MATTHEWS: How did you get that Irish name? I love it. I love that
name, Flanagan.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I`m Melissa Williams (ph). I`m a teacher,
and I`m for Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: OK. OK.

Now we have to get smart here. Now give me your reasons you have for
whoever you`re for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Daniel Ferguson (ph). I`m for
Obama/Biden.

MATTHEWS: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realize that Romney, some of his plans are
really not fair, so Obama all the way.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will never forget the middle class. I`m a
Vietnam veteran and he hasn`t forgotten me.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.

Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Obama has more integrity than most
politicians in the last, I don`t know, my generation, integrity.

MATTHEWS: Chris, I love this country and I don`t want to turn it over
to these guys, who screwed it up once before.

MATTHEWS: OK.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Linda. I`m for Obama because I want my kids
to have health care.

MATTHEWS: Health care, education, peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Susan Herron (ph). And I am one of the West
Virginians that voted for Obama and will again.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, guys. It`s great to have you. Stick
around. We are going to do this show, then do another show. We will be
here all night tonight.

We will be right back with more HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger with
your "Market Wrap."

The Dow reversed a steep loss to end up two, the S&P is flat and the
Nasdaq rose 11. Dow component Caterpillar posted earnings that beat
estimates earlier, but revenue fell short and the company cut its full-year
guidance. FedEx expects to handle 280 million shipments between
Thanksgiving and Christmas. That is up 13 percent from last year. And
Yahoo! shares are higher after hours following a better-than-expected
profit report -- now back to HARDBALL.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live from Lynn University in Boca
Raton for the final presidential debate.

The new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows that, among female
voters, women, if the election were held today, Obama wins by eight points,
a slightly smaller lead than the president had back in August, before both
parties` conventions and the debates. And at a time when the economy
dominates politics, President Obama made clear in the second debate that
women`s issues are economic issues.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Joining me right now, Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager
Stephanie Cutter and political activist and women`s advocate Gloria
Steinem.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS: Now, I never thought we would have somebody so grand on the
show here, but there you are, Gloria.

And I just -- having heard through the grapevine what you feel, I
don`t feel I have to offer you any special cues. What are the women`s
stakes in this presidential election in two weeks?

GLORIA STEINEM, CO-FOUNDER, WOMEN`S MEDIA CENTER: Well, I think the
problem is that when we say women it only applies to women, but, in fact,
it`s the whole country.

So the truth of the matter is that equal pay is the biggest economic
stimulus this country could possibly have. If women were paid equally for
comparable work, there would be $200 billion more in the economy as an
economic stimulus.

Each white woman on the average would get $147 more a week, each woman
of color about more than $250, and these women are going to spend that
money. They`re not going to invest it in China. They are not going to
send it to the Bahamas, no.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

STEINEM: They`re going to spend it and create jobs.

So our mistake I think has been to phrase it as if it`s separate from
the economy as a whole, when, in fact, it is the single most important
economic stimulus. And Romney has refused to say that he supports even
equal pay. I mean, this is outrageous. He`s not a Republican. He`s an
extremist.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s bring out -- I know he`s a right-winger. I
agree on that on this issue.

What stuns me is the commentary from the other side, referring to
women -- like calling Claire McCaskill, go fetch, dog talk, about a person
who is a senator and a woman. This -- it seems like the Romney people do
have a strategy, though. They believe they can get women votes or at least
not lose too many by simply saying we`re going to be awful on the issues,
especially the issues normally considered women`s issues all the way up to
health care and everything else, but we will get them on the economy.

STEINEM: No, but this is the economy. I mean...

MATTHEWS: No, what they call the economy.

STEINEM: No, but they`re wrong. They`re 100 percent wrong.

The biggest indicator of whether a woman can work or not, be educated
or not, be healthy or not is reproductive control, can she decide when --
that is an economic issue. They think economic issues only apply to white
guys. I`m sorry. That`s just not true.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

Go ahead, Stephanie.

Pick it up from the campaign point of view.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I agree
with Gloria that the Romney campaign is very dismissive of these issues.
They call them social issues.

They`re not social issues. They`re economic issues.

STEINEM: Right.

CUTTER: And the president made that point in the debate last week,
that he was talking about women as breadwinners in their families. And it
was a women`s issue, it was a family issue, and it was an economic issue.
It was very much about the strength of this country and the strength of our
economy.

And Mitt Romney`s response to that was he had a binder full of women.
And then, after that campaign -- I mean after that debate, the Romney
campaign, you know, spent days talking -- pushing aside women as, that`s
not the real issue in this race and dismissing them as social issues.

MATTHEWS: Why is the Republican Party -- you have studied this a
while -- why is the Republican Party moving from the party we knew growing
up to this right-wing party?

STEINEM: Right. Because...

MATTHEWS: Why are they doing things like personhood and 14th
Amendment rights in the -- who is this for?

STEINEM: Right.

Because, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which old Jesse
Helms kind of Democrats began to despair of the inclusiveness of the
Democratic Party, leave and take over the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Right.

STEINEM: All the religious and economic extremists who used to be
Democrats have taken over the Republican Party.

I apologize to my Republican friends who are real Republicans. Nixon
supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Goldwater was pro-choice.

MATTHEWS: But what would be the purpose to put in your platform 14th
Amendment rights, life, liberty, and property to a fertilized egg? Now, I
respect all the decisions -- I mean, I understand all the views about the
philosophy of when life begins. I understand the debate. It`s on. It`s
probably not going to be gone in our lifetime.

But the idea of giving rights of property, this is almost ridiculous.
It does tend to justify criminalization, though.

(CROSSTALK)

STEINEM: Yes, of course. I mean, of course it`s criminalizing. If
the fertilized egg is a person, then you have nationalized women`s bodies
throughout our childbearing years.

And that`s just the -- but the point is we don`t -- we don`t quite
understand the importance of controlling reproduction.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s go back to something which is...

(CROSSTALK)

STEINEM: They`re controlling reproduction. Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s a lot more consensus in this country about birth
control, contraception.

STEINEM: Right.

MATTHEWS: A young woman who works in her 20s or 30s and is not ready
to have a child, that`s her decision. I think we all agree on that. She
wants birth control. Isn`t it in society`s interest for her to get that as
part of her health care?

CUTTER: Absolutely. And that`s why...

STEINEM: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And is it in society`s interests for her boss to be able to
be the -- the -- the birth control Nazi to decide who gets it and who
doesn`t?

CUTTER: No, it`s not. You know, women take contraception for a lot of
different reasons. It`s not just birth control. It also has to do with
preventing cancer and other diseases. It`s a preventative medication.

That`s why the Affordable Care Act includes it as part of
preventative measures for women, and that`s why insurance companies are now
required to provide contraception for women with no out of pocket costs.
It does not make sense to put employers in charge of that decision. Women
should be able to make that decision.

If their insurance plan offers contraception, which by law they have
to, with no out of pocket costs, then that`s between women and their
insurance companies and it should be in the women`s court to make that
decision, not employers. So, if I work at any fast food restaurant,
they`re making the decision about whether I have access to contraception,
absolutely not.

MATTHEWS: Do you hear the 1950s in Romney`s voice? I hear it all
the time.

STEINEM: I`m not even --

MATTHEWS: Women have --

(CROSSTALK)

STEINEM: I`m not even sure he`s up with the 1950s.

MATTHEWS: What is it because it seems out of date?

STEINEM: Well, there`s the problem with Romney -- or several things,
his policies, that he doesn`t tell the truth about his policies, and that
his attitudes -- his internal attitudes are a problem. I mean, you know,
this -- I have been around a long time. I think I`m older than you, OK?
So this is the most destructive to equality candidate I have ever seen in
my life, ever, for the presidency. Much more than Goldwater, Nixon, Bush -
-

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But women are tougher today than ever in terms of
demanding their equal --

STEINEM: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: Why would they vote for him?

STEINEM: Because this is -- first of all, it`s a backlash against
equality, that now these folks who control what used to be the Republican
Party, it`s a backlash against all the social justice movements which have
won the majority. And the question is, do women have the information or
not? I mean, Republican women say to me, but he`d never really do that.
You know, he`d never really criminalize -- right, right.

MATTHEWS: That`s a convenient summation. Nobody knows if he
believes in anything, therefore, he might not do anything.

STEINEM: No, but the best --

MATTHEWS: I want Stephanie on this because she`s the partisan here.
How do you handle -- I swear he can cut any deal with Grover Norquist, any
deal with Pat Robertson, kind of get the robes on from Liberty University.
He can have neocons all around him, Bolton, he`s horrible, dangerous people
-- have them all around him and yet nobody believes he believes anything.

That seems to be protecting him. He`s a complete cynic.

CUTTER: Yes. Well, I think they should beware of what he believes.
Over the course of running for president --

MATTHEWS: Is he a charlatan or a right winger?

CUTTER: He`s a right winger. I mean, you can`t take these positions
over the last six years, never once stand up to the far right elements of
your party, the fringes of your party, over the course of six years, and
then say, oh, forget it, I didn`t mean any of that. He is firmly against
Roe v. Wade. That`s clear. He said he would sign legislation.

MATTHEWS: He said terrific.

CUTTER: Right. Terrific, marvelous, wonderful.

STEINEM: Overthrow Planned Parenthood, I mean --

CUTTER: And funding for Planned Parenthood. He wants to put bosses
in charge of contraception.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But why go after the immensely popular programs like
Planned Parenthood, which you don`t have to be rabidly pro-choice --

CUTTER: Because it was part of him trying to win over the
conservatives in this election. And you can`t take positions --

MATTHEWS: You said something very smart and I just met you tonight,
it`s (INAUDIBLE) to meet you. But you said something, it`s not the
Republican Party. It`s this new right wing thing.

STEINEM: It`s not. It is an extremist party that I hope if they`re
defeated big time this time, true Republicans, centrist Republicans will
come and take it back. It is so dangerous to have one of our great parties
control --

MATTHEWS: Can I say something that`s vaguely sexist, vaguely sexist?
If you`re older than me, you look fabulous at any age. Fabulous.

STEINEM: Well, you look fabulous, too.

MATTHEWS: I don`t want that. I don`t want that. I`m just glad I
got to meet you.

Gloria Steinem and Stephanie Cutter.

Up next -- stay and hear about this. Anyway, by the way, the state
by state path to the presidency is up.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics -- live from Boca Raton for
the final presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back from Lynn University in Boca Raton for the
final presidential debate and our final segment tonight. Tonight, we`re
taking a look at how the debate will play in the battleground states that
will determine the election.

Yesterday, we got our new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. And it
showed Mitt Romney pulling even, dead even, 47-47, with President Obama.

Late today, we got a new "Washington Post"/ABC News tracking poll
with the president up by one, 49-48.

With me is MSNBC political analyst and author of "What`s the Matter
with White People," Joan Walsh, and "Washington Post" political reporter
Nia-Malika Henderson.

Thank you, ladies, for joining us tonight.

I want to talk about tonight and this impact tonight. People love to
say foreign policy doesn`t matter. I think it does in a dangerous world.
I think this president has evened out the parties in terms of the old
advantage of the Republican Party in foreign policy during the Cold War I
believe is gone. These two men personify the modern parties.

I do believe that Barack Obama, the president, has an edge. Is that
true? In the voters` mind, is he seen as a serious commander-in-chief?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s Mitt Romney?

MATTHEWS: No, the president.

HENDERSON: The president is, but you have seen something of a
closing of the gap. The president had a double digit lead on foreign
policy for months and months and months. It looks like Romney has been
able to successfully chip away at that. It`s five, six points if you look
at the recent polls --

MATTHEWS: Why? Was it his persona in the first debate where he
seemed to be, I would say, a bully too much? He was also strong. Is the
strong part better than the bully part?

HENDERSON: I think he will certainly -- he looked like a commander-
in-chief in that --

MATTHEWS: Because he bossed around Jim Lehrer.

HENDERSON: Because Obama looked lackluster --

MATTHEWS: OK. Joan -- Joan, this was sort of a display of
personality that first debate which won`t go away. Your thoughts on its
impact on the foreign policy image of these two guys.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think -- we
talk a lot about the women`s vote, Chris, but I think that this debate is
very important to swing women voters. And Nia-Malika is absolutely right,
the president lost that debate largely on demeanor and he let Mitt Romney
seem reasonable.

He cannot do that tonight. I have watched all day long, starting
with waking up with Dan Senor on "MORNING JOE" as he has tried to moderate
Mitt`s crazy warmongering positions.

And the president, if he comes out tonight and does what -- if he
comes out tonight and does what -- if Romney comes out tonight and does
what he did in the first debate and just smiles and pretends that he never
said any of those things that he said, those horrible things about the
first strikes against Iran and et cetera, the president has got to call him
on it. He cannot get away with being moderate Mitt when he`s actually a
warmonger and we simply don`t know what he would do as president.

HENDERSON: I mean --

MATTHEWS: Until recently, Romney was like -- we`re not going to let
them have a nuclear weapon.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: He said to me like we`re going to blow them out of the
world if they get in their way. It wasn`t a talk of a guy that wants to
negotiate or use sanctions. When I get in there, there won`t be no
weapons.

HENDERSON: That`s right. And I think --

MATTHEWS: And now he`s saying, according to Joan and other people
who have watched him this past weekend, this evolution again to the softer
--

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Yes, there is a bit of an evolution. I mean, you saw him
--

MATTHEWS: You call it an evolution that happens in two weeks?

HENDERSON: There is something -- I mean, there is --

MATTHEWS: Is it a flip?

HENDERSON: On Iran, he has the exact same position. It seems to me,
as President Obama does. The blueprint here is to be like a Joe Biden,
maybe a modified Joe Biden in terms of how he was able to go and Mitt
Romney --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joe Biden wouldn`t hire Dan Senor or John Bolton to
represent him.

HENDERSON: Well, I`m just saying. In terms of he handled Mitt
Romney, well, what would you do differently, Mr. Romney? Is the only
option on the table is to have war?

MATTHEWS: Let`s get to a couple of these. Let`s go to Ohio.

Joan, you love the economic issues, social issues, foreign policies.
One of the issues that is big in that part of the state is in Ohio. Let`s
look at the gap, by the way, between -- it shows a narrow gap between the
candidates for the fight for Ohio`s 18 electoral votes.

The Quinnipiac poll/CBS poll, has Obama up by five. And Suffolk
University poll has Obama and Romney roughly tied among at 47 each. In
fact, exactly tied.

The issue that Romney`s using in the Midwest and industrial states is
China. They have been too dishonest than their trade approach to us, they
have not had fair trade. And this president has been tough enough at the
bargaining table. That might work, it seems to me, with a lot of people
who feel that their jobs have been jeopardized by bad trade agreements.

WALSH: Well, it might work. But I think the president can talk
about the things that -- the steps he has taken to enforce trade
agreements. He`s been more aggressive than President Bush was, Chris, and
I think that he can also make a point that, you know, we don`t want a trade
war with China. That again, diplomacy is important here and that people
lose jobs if we go ballistic and started trade war with China.

So, Mitt Romney`s crazy talk on China is just -- is dangerous in a
different way from his crazy talk or former crazy talk on Iran.

But, again, I think it comes back to the swing women voters, that
gender gap only opened with the Reagan election, and people thought, oh, it
was about choice or it`s about equal rights. But it was largely about the
fear that Ronald Reagan was a little bit of a warmonger. We`re seeing the
same thing with Mitt Romney.

And I thin the president, whether it comes to Ohio, or Florida, or
Wisconsin, has to tie him to those policies and that will reach women.

MATTHEWS: OK. Straight question to you, Nia, I`ve never heard,
maybe you`ve heard it on the trail.

I`ve never heard Romney display a knowledge or sense of history,
including how wars get started, how the Chinese came in to Korean, fighting
us. Nobody thought they would because they saw it as a threat to them.
These kinds of historic concerns by the right wing or the conservative
party is don`t get involved in a land war in Asia. The concerns about how
wars get started by accident.

Does he done historic sense, does he ever displayed it? He`s running
for commander-in-chief.

HENDERSON: Right. I think Peggy Noonan probably was right in saying
that Mitt Romney doesn`t have a real depth of knowledge in terms of foreign
policy. He certainly has --

MATTHEWS: How about history?

HENDERSON: Or history in terms of foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: What`s he been doing the last 65 years, read the paper?

HENDERSON: He`s running a campaign that`s largely about the economy.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: See, I hold that against him. How can you be 65 years old
and not know American history?

HENDERSON: Well, I think it`s clear that he is -- you know, he`s
trying to adopt a lot of the neoconservative arguments around foreign
policies.

MATTHEWS: Is that because he`s an empty suit and there`s plenty of
room for new ideas?

HENDERSON: Well, I mean, if you look at the polls, people find --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Joan, you laughed because that`s exactly the kind of
person that the real ideologues love. They love Dan Quayle. They love W,
because they`ve never read a book until they meet these guys who read books
all their lives and they have such tremendous hold on them. That`s what
goes on. All of a sudden these guys don`t have a thought on their head,
all of a sudden, they`re hawks.

Your thought. One minute.

WALSH: Mitt spent all -- he spent all the time thinking about
getting rich. To the extent that he`s thought about the world it`s been in
that capacity. He doesn`t show any curiosity about other cultures. He
doesn`t show any curiosity or humility about history.

MATTHEWS: OK. He went to the King David Hotel and never left it the
whole time he was there.

WALSH: Unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you, Joan Walsh. He`s everything you say.

Anyway, thank you, Nia-Malika Henderson.

When we return, let me finish with the titan of the liberal left.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics, live from Lynn
University for the final presidential debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this: we live in a society
where winning is everything. No matter how dishonest, how sleazy, how
nastily the victor has conducted himself, he`s cheered on election night.

The reverse is true for the loser. He or she can be principled,
honest, courageous, even visionary, lose the election, you`re a loser.

George McGovern flew two combat missions -- two dozen combat missions
over Europe during World War II. He never bragged about his war heroism,
never even brought it up.

McGovern was not a great politician. A great politician would have
combined his opposition to the Vietnam War for which this good man will
always be known or the strong statement of pride of what we Americans,
himself included, accomplish fighting World War II. Again, he never did.
As a politician, running to be commander-in-chief, he should have, but
didn`t.

I never saw exactly eye to eye with this good man from South Dakota.
He never showed the gut cold warriors that I value. He never personified
the just view most Americans took towards the Soviet Union, which truly was
said on the course of world domination. He didn`t show his deep contempt
and anger toward the communist ambition a threat to us. Again, I don`t
know why, but he didn`t and that bothered me.

But he was what he was, a Cold War skeptic, a World War II guy who
never bragged, a man of guts we needed when Bobby Kennedy was gone and
Eugene McCarthy left the field. The fight against stupidity of the
American war in Vietnam, a war we can only win, of course, by killing
millions and the country went there to save.

George McGovern lost the seat in the Senate in 1980 landslide. It
would have been better for the country I think if he`s been there fighting
the now relentless series of wars we`ve seen intent on fighting in the
Islamic world. That`s what I think. That`s what I think we lost, a man
who had been a profile in courage both war and in fighting for peace.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. I`ll be back
in one hour with another live edition of HARDBALL. Then at 8:00 I`ll join
Rachel Maddow for coverage of the third and final presidential debate.

"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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