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updated 10/16/2013 12:27:19 PM ET 2013-10-16T16:27:19

HARDBALL
October 15, 2013
Guest: Lizz Winstead, Rep. Donna Edwards


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The speaker must decide.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. John Boehner, I`m talking to you. I
think you need advice from outside that caucus. I`m afraid it`s smothering
you. It`s killing any impulse you have to truly call the shots and end
this government shutdown -- worse yet, this approaching default on the
country`s debt, this historic embarrassment to your party, to your beloved
House of Representatives, this deep injury to your country.

Here, I think it`s fair to say, are your options, Mr. Speaker. You can
continue down the road that little band of warriors on your party`s right
has assigned you.

That means sticking with them all the way, following whatever course the
farthest-out 30 of your caucus want you to take, going after the Affordable
Care Act at every stop, regardless of the danger to the country, giving up
on any bipartisan solution to the current debt crisis, then doing the whole
thing over again every two months from now until the end of your
speakership, causing havoc at minimum, global economic mayhem at maximum,
each breach of trust doing irreparable damage to our financial standing,
the value of our signature on a bond or a bill, the value of our currency,
our word.

You really want to get down that road, Mr. Speaker? How about this? How
about you restore democracy to the people`s house? How about you set a
vote to reopen the government and do it -- add it to whatever riders don`t
think won`t bring it down, and call the roll. You will have reasserted
yourself as the leader of the House for as long as you hold the title.

Think about it. What would Edmund Burke do? What would Winston Churchill
do? What would a gutsy John Boehner do?

Now back to you who are watching this craziness from some distance. The
Republicans` latest offer would reopen the government but only until
December 15th. Then would come just before Christmas and the holidays
another big government shutdown with all the trimmings.

Just to get that far, the right wing of the Republican caucus is filling
the president`s bags with more lumps of coal, matters so small they don`t
even deserve mention alongside the threat of an historic default on this
country`s debt.

Well, joining me right now is Democratic congresswoman Donna Edwards of
Maryland. Congresswoman, I want you to try to explain to the people out
there who are trying to understand this. What is the Republican caucus,
officially led by John Boehner, although I don`t think he has his heart in
it, this attempt to add on more to the load that we have to end up dumping
in two days from now, making it harder and harder through all these new
additions to the deal, if there ever is one, that there won`t be a deal.
Your thoughts. What are they up to?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well, I would love to be able to tell
you, but what I think about this, Chris, it reminds me kind of a children`s
verse, second verse same as the first. I mean, this is what they`ve tried
before. They want to attach all of this policy stuff to paying our bills
and opening our government. I mean, these are two basic functions and
responsibilities that the Congress has.

And Speaker Boehner, frankly, seems more like a marionette being led by
these Tea Partiers than he is a speaker right now. He needs 31 Republicans
to join 186 Democrats who have already declared on the record that we would
pass a clean debt ceiling and that we would open up government.

And he needs to just gather those 31, be a speaker of the whole House, and
bring this to a close.

But to set up what happened last year again this year, to say to the
American people, I want to send this economy in the tank? It`s really
irresponsible. It`s very reckless.

MATTHEWS: Is there a middle? Could he -- I just proposed he do it. Why
doesn`t he open it up to the House, both parties, and say I`ve got a few
refinements here that are not going to hurt "Obama care," they will improve
it. I want this thing to have a shot at surviving. I`m not here to kill
"Obama care." It`s been voted for.

Isn`t there some middle where he could say, I could get a decent number of
Republicans, maybe even a majority, and get some Democrats? Or is there no
middle road here? I don`t understand this myself.

EDWARDS: The problem for him is that he hasn`t been able to propose any
kind of middle. Their option, as they`ve stated, they just want to see the
whole thing done with. And so they want to sink the American economy.
They want not to pay our bills because they want to kill health care for
the American people. I mean, it really is outrageous.

And so I think the better thing for the speaker would be to say, You know
what? We`re going to open for a vote any resolution that`s put on the
floor by a member of Congress, and Democrats would put a clean debt ceiling
on the floor. We put a clean continuing resolution on the floor. And
guess what?

MATTHEWS: OK --

EDWARDS: We fund government and we would pay our bills.

MATTHEWS: Well, you say he`s a marionette, a puppet of the right wing.
How does it work? Do they sit in the caucus and 30 of them raise their
hands and say no every time he tries something? What do you think happens
over there?

EDWARDS: Well, it`s hard to know. I mean, I do think that, you know,
there`s been some threat and spoken on the record that perhaps his
speakership will be under threat. But frankly, what kind of speaker are
you now if you don`t have the ability to do what`s right for the American
people? And you know, I`ve met --

MATTHEWS: Who has the nerve to vote against him?

EDWARDS: -- John Boehner. I know John Boehner. I think he could do it.

MATTHEWS: Who has the nerve to run against him?

EDWARDS: You know --

MATTHEWS: Who has the nerve to put in a motion to declare the speakership
vacant? And he looks him in the eye. These guys are big talkers, but I`ve
seen these so-called rebellions before. You know, it`s easy to play
Fletcher Christian until you have to go face to face with Captain Bligh.
It`s a lot tougher to do than to talk.

I mean, these characters have been on this show, and I think they`re nuts,
a lot of them. They think Obama is from -- where is he from -- Kenya?
They don`t have the facts straight. They make terrible charges. They`re
not credible people, that 30 on the right. Half of them are birthers.

Why does he listen to this crowd of crazies?

EDWARDS: You`re right. I don`t even know, Chris. I would love to be able
to explain that. I mean, what I can say to you is that I think that -- I
just want to appeal to the speaker to please have the courage to do what`s
right.

We saw the stock market today go down yet again. It is a signal of what`s
going to happen in 30 hours if the speaker doesn`t get this right. And so
I`m just appealing to him. I know that we are as Democrats. It would be
the right thing for the American people to do.

And I think you`re right, there`s a whole bunch of tough talk on that other
side, but who`s going to dethrone him? I mean, it`s time to do the right
thing.

MATTHEWS: Just along the lines -- I`m not a financial expert. You know, I
think I`m better than Steven King and some of that crowd in the caucus over
there. But I just got the word they`re -- Fitch ratings up in New York and
London, of course, are talking about a possible downgrade already. So this
is happening. We`re right on the edge of craziness.

And if they`re doing this over this -- this -- I can`t even use the word,
but everybody knows what word I would use, this Mickey Mouse stuff that
they`re talking about attaching to that vote late tonight -- my hope is
when that passes, it gets it past him, he tries again. My danger is that
that`s going to be their last word, and we`re in real trouble for Thursday
night.

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

Governor Rendell, who was governor of Pennsylvania and is now an MSNBC
political analyst -- you know, Governor, I think it`s going to always going
to haunt us that they went down over such crap, such nonsense. I can`t use
the word that you and I know that fits the mold. LBJ would have said it.

This is so disproportionate to the thought (ph) of bringing this country`s
dollar down, our credit in the world, the dollar -- the notion of our
currency as the reserve currency of the world, which we`ve had for 100
years, for what? Something to do with House staff salaries, something to
do with the subsidies, something to do with the rights of the Treasury
secretary down the road to prioritize?

Is that a reason to bring down the curtain on the American economic
condition?

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It`s
ridiculous, Chris. And it`s also insane because I think with
redistricting, the Republicans, as low as they`ve sunk, have a chance to
survive and control the House now. But if there is a default, they`re
done. They`re absolutely done.

And by the way, it`s not just John Boehner that has to step up. My
suggestion would be -- and I`m going to get on the horn and start calling
some people. My suggestion would be pass the Senate bill. And the Senate
bill, by the way, does make some modifications to "Obama care." It
tightens the verification requirements for people getting subsidies. It
gets rid of the fee on employers. So it does make some changes, the Senate
bill.

Send the Senate bill over. And then it`s time -- forget John Boehner. We
do a discharge petition. And it`s time for Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan
and Fitzpatrick and Gerlach and Runyan and all these so-called moderates --
it`s time to stand up.

Will they sign a discharge petition which will force a vote, and will they
vote to pass it? That`s the time. It`s not just time for John Boehner to
stand up.

These guys have had it very good, Chris, because they`ve written letters to
"The Inquirer" saying, We`re for a clean bill, et cetera, et cetera. But
they haven`t shown the willingness to sign a discharge petition. They
haven`t shown --

MATTHEWS: Do they know that --

RENDELL: -- a willingness to join the letter that Congresswoman Edwards
was talking about.

MATTHEWS: Do they know it`s summertime in 1964 and they`re out in San
Francisco in the Cow Palace right now nominating Goldwater, that they`re
out there with the crazies who are booing Rockefeller and Scranton, that
they`ve joined that party, not the party of Reagan but that party all the
way out there? Do they know that, those guys? They`re your colleagues up
in Pennsylvania. Do they know it?

RENDELL: And they`re all good guys who`ve served well. But they think
they can get away with playing both sides. They`re not, because we will do
-- Democrats in Pennsylvania will do a letter saying, Patrick Meehan`s a
good guy, he`s served well, but he`s got to be defeated because if he stays
in, the crazies will control the government. The only way to get the Tea
Party out of governing is for Pat Meehan to lose.

And it`s a damn persuasive argument if the debt ceiling goes up in smoke,
if we don`t pass the debt ceiling and the economy gets (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, this is -- here`s the fuse, the fuse that goes right to the
debt ceiling blowing up Thursday night. John Boehner will not report out a
budget -- a debt default -- what do you call it, a continuation of the debt
extension ceiling -- he will not do it unless it includes something that
really hurts "Obama care."

Therefore, not a single Democrat will support it. Therefore, he needs a
full House of Republicans. He needs 217 out of 232 to back his plan.
Therefore, he will do anything -- he`ll throw the kitchen sink at "Obama
care" to get that 217 out of 232 because he won`t get a single vote from
the Democrats to do that because they`re not going to destroy their major
achievement.

My question is, why doesn`t he throw out the crazy 30 and say, I`m going to
go with a majority in the House, maybe a majority in my caucus, and do
little things that will make our point on "Obama care" but won`t be mortal
wounds to it. We won`t really try to hurt it, but we`ll make a statement
here.

Why doesn`t he do that? Because that would pass.

RENDELL: Who knows? The Senate bill has two significant changes in "Obama
care." It takes away the fee to companies for giving -- who already give
existing health care to their employees. That`s a big plus for business.
And it tightens the verification requirements.

Declare victory. Run up the flag pole and say, We won. We modified "Obama
care."

I mean, it`s insane. And John Boehner, who I have a great deal of respect
for, and I know you do -- it`s time for him to step up and do something
that`s important for the country. And if he loses his speakership, so
what? There are some things in this world -- for politicians like me,
there are things that have to be worth losing for. And saving the American
economy, saving our good faith and credit around the world, that`s got to
be worth risking losing for.

And I agree with you. I think if he did it, he doesn`t lose.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s Edmund Burke. I think he`s Winston Churchill.
He`s a leader in the republican form of government we all accept.

RENDELL: He`s got to do it.

RENDELL: You`re not all sitting out there looking at the polls. Anyway,
thank you, Ed Rendell, governor -- former governor of Pennsylvania. Great
guest.

Coming up: The GOP kamikaze caucus, the Republicans who want the
impossible. They want to bring down "Obama care" and are ready to blow up
everything just to get it.

Also, if someone from Mars came down and said to the Republican Party --
simple question -- Who`s your leader, where would they go to point to? Who
is running that group now? The elected leaders in Congress? Maybe. We`ll
see in the next two days. Or the fringe out there on the right who look
like they`re calling the shots?

Plus, nobody`s buying the Republican malarkey that it`s the Democrats who
shut down the government, so why do they keep pushing that line?

Finally, we`ve all been thinking about Ted Cruz. Now Jimmy Kimmel has said
it. Good for him.

This is HARDBALL, by the way, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Disapproval for Republicans in Congress continues to reach
record levels. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds that two thirds
-- actually, three quarters of Americans, 74 percent, disapprove of the way
congressional Republicans are handling the debt crisis -- that`s a record,
by the way, up 11 points since the shutdown began -- 54 percent say they
now strongly disapprove of the Republicans in Congress. But contrast, 53
percent say they disapprove of the way President Obama`s handled the
crisis. No winners here, essentially flat, since (ph) the start of the
shutdown.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), VIRGINIA: A lot of what you see in the House, you see
some Republicans -- not all, I don`t want to say this about the entire
Republican Party -- but some Republicans are, you know -- quite honestly,
they`re acting childish about a lot of this and they, you know, almost want
a shutdown. They want to see us break the debt ceiling, things like that.
Very irresponsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Senator Mark Pryor making a
key point about a segment of the Republican caucus. I`ve called them the
far-out people.

With the country on the brink of a catastrophic default on its debt, a
number of Tea Party Republicans are still holding out, in fact raising the
stakes, refusing to sign onto any agreement to raise the debt ceiling that
doesn`t gut the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Congressman Tim Huelskamp mocked the potential bipartisan deal worked
out in the Senate, telling "The New York Times," quote, "We`ve got a name
for it in the House. It`s called the Senate surrender caucus. Well,
anybody who would vote for that in the House as a Republican would
virtually guarantee a primary challenge." So now they`re spouting it out
loud.

Is there anything that will satisfy these people, or do they just want to
blow up government, even if it means defaulting?

Alex Wagner is the host, of course, of "NOW WITH ALEX WAGNER" Wednesday --
that`s on weekdays every day at noon Eastern here at MSNBC, and a great
show. Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst.

Eugene, let me ask you about this fight. I mean, clearly, there`s a group
within the caucus that are basically like Sampson in the temple, just bring
it down.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: Or have the president bow down before them, give them his baby,
basically. Here. Will you please not blow up the temple?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I mean, that is really the choice they`d love to do.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: Give me your baby or we blow up the temple.

ROBINSON: Or we blow up the temple.

MATTHEWS: I mean, that`s their demand. This is going on now. They`ve
been consistent on this. And they went off and talked about stuff for the
oil patch, something about offshore, something about the federal lands, but
it`s all come back to the thing they want to hurt, that baby.

ROBINSON: Yes. And today, they`re just, like, lashing out, lashing out at
the staff in Congress, you know, and Take away their, you know, health
insurance, lashing out at -- just everywhere they possibly can for no
reason. There`s nothing --

MATTHEWS: Well, they keep coming up with reasons except, their blood lust
to kill "Obama care."

ROBINSON: You know, so -- but they`re not a majority. They`re not a
majority of the Republican caucus, probably, so --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s think about that --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: -- John Boehner --

MATTHEWS: -- meeting at the Mexican restaurant next to the House
(INAUDIBLE) This is one of the interesting -- in the past, Ted Cruz has
lobbied conservatives in the House to undermine Speaker Boehner. Well,
last night, according to "Roll Call," the newspaper that covers the Hill,
he met secretly with a group of the most conservative Republicans at a
Capitol Mexican restaurant, Tortilla Coast.

Quote, "The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should
respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the
debt ceiling without addressing `Obama care` in a substantive" -- in other
words negative -- "way. The group was spotted by majority whip Kevin
McCarthy, who happened to be dining there with some other members." He
looked across the room and saw the secret meeting!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: "McCarthy`s a regular at that Capitol restaurant, and a source
said he seemed particularly interested in what the group were up to."

Well, I would!

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Alex, this is -- I`ve seen this happen before in politics, these
secret meetings. They`re sometimes held in somebody`s basement. They
always get out that somebody`s had them because people talk.

Why did they have a meeting, the block adjacent to the House office
buildings, at a Mexican restaurant where anybody can walk by?

ALEX WAGNER, HOST, MSNBC "NOW": Because they don`t particularly care if
Kevin McCarthy feels shut out because Kevin McCarthy is shut out! They`re
over there having the enchilada cabal, and Kevin McCarthy is, like, Can I
have some guacamole, too, guys?

I mean, it is a testament to how degraded House leadership is, how
completely powerless they are, that Ted Cruz, from the Senate, comes in
with raucous -- the raucous-most members of the caucus to really plot out
the strategy --

MATTHEWS: So what do they do?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: They say, Send a -- tell the waiter, waitperson, Send a
margarita over to that guy, he looks lonely over there. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: This is about --

ROBINSON: Look, my version of the Tortilla Coast --

MATTHEWS: -- a $17 trillion debt question they`ve got to deal with.

ROBINSON: I know. I know.

MATTHEWS: And we`re talking about whether we`re going to punish the staff
on the Hill or we`re going to have another range war with the unions, this
stuff that can be dealt with all through the year through legislation.

WAGNER: And the whip --

ROBINSON: Right.

WAGNER: The whip is not included! The House majority whip is not included
in the conversation!

ROBINSON: You know, I wonder why the next morning, right -- because
McCarthy presumably went back and told Boehner. So why did they still have
offices the next morning, right, because --

WAGNER: Exactly!

ROBINSON: -- I would think they -- you know, Your new office is in the
basement three levels below the Capitol --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: We laugh about this because it`s awful. The people out there
driving trucks, doing jobs that are really rough, right, they got to wear
kidney belts because they have these long hauls, they`re people with real
jobs out in the street, real hard jobs. And got congressmen sitting around
doing what?

WAGNER: Well --

MATTHEWS: I mean, is this street theater? Eugene, is it -- is it street
theater? They`re playing to the angriest people in the country, and they
figure as long as they put on a good show, they`ll keep their jobs.

ROBINSON: Right --

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: Right now, it`s just nihilist self-destruction.

I mean, what they`re going to do to that -- that person who`s working,
who`s scrimped scraped and bought a house --

MATTHEWS: Paying a big bunch of his paycheck to Washington.

ROBINSON: Well, paying a lot money in Washington, paying the mortgage or
whatever. And they`re threatening a recession. They`re threatening a
recession. They`re threatening to take the equity out of that guy`s house.
That`s all he`s got.

MATTHEWS: Well, we just got a report they`re already talking about -- a
company that does the credit rating has already talked they`re on the edge
of making the move, stamping this thing B-grade, or they don`t trust it.

Anyway, "The Washington Post" reported today after the House Republican
Conference meeting -- quote -- "Emerging from the meeting Tuesday morning,
Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina said, many members have
sincere, deep concerns with the plan. He noted that he`s willing to reopen
the government, but has not voted to raise the debt ceiling since 1997, and
has vowed never to do so again."

So, wait a minute. If he`s not going to raise it, then he`s one less guy
to be part of the 217, in other words, one less Republican. So, now
Boehner has to scrounge even further to the right.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: But can I say something about their motivation here?

A., I don`t think they really care about the struggles of the poor and the
working class. But, B., Chris, there has been this whole vein of anti-
fact, anti-science Republicanism, conservatism that has been borne out
about in the debate around climate change, in the debate about facts, in
the debate about polls going into the 2012 elections, and now that is being
borne out here.

We don`t believe what the economists have to say about the debt ceiling.
We`re not entirely sure that`s real. A Pew poll came out a few hours ago;
69 percent of Tea Partiers do not think the debt ceiling is something that
we really need to pay attention to.

MATTHEWS: What did they major in, these people?

WAGNER: They are entitled to their own facts.

And the problem is -- they think they are, at least. When you have people
that are going by another set of facts, another set of data, it is
impossible to compromise with them, because there is no -- there is no
common ground anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: So, let me get this straight. So, people that take their car,
American or foreign, to a dealer to get it fixed or a local mechanic --
usually a dealer now -- know that they don`t know how to do it themselves.
They don`t have the tools.

They just don`t. People aren`t stupid. They just don`t have the tools or
basically the techniques. These are things you have to have somebody do
who is a specialist. Why do not rely that way on people who understand the
complexity of international finance?

ROBINSON: I have no idea. Because they don`t trust those people. They
think those people are -- because they think they`re all socialists.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Oh, they`re all socialists.

ROBINSON: They`re all socialists, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: Because they feel disenfranchised, because they feel
disenfranchised by --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No. I had a guy on, I had Steve King on who says he doesn`t
listen to international economists. I said, what about American
economists? He says, I don`t listen to them either.

ROBINSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he said, but I raised a family.

Well, there are certain things to learn raising a family, how to deal with
kids when they`re crying at night. You let them cry a little bit, and then
you go in and see. You don`t let them cry too long. You make judgments
like that. But it doesn`t help you deal with international finance.

ROBINSON: Right. Raise a family, run a country, not the same thing.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: There`s one similarity.

When you become a deadbeat. And if you`re going to become a deadbeat, I
don`t see how that flushes or fits with Republican thinking. The one
advantage they have always claimed and sometimes deserved over the
Democrats is, the Democrats were the big spenders. They were the guys that
kept the lists and said, this is too much. We have to stop here.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And now they have blown it.

Here`s the real evil dishonesty here. The same people who are saying -- as
somebody said earlier on this network, the same people who are saying it
doesn`t matter if we go over the debt ceiling, if it was a Republican
president, would be out there fighting to protect it, the same people.

WAGNER: Yes, and trying to impeach anybody that was trying to stop --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: It`s dishonest.

WAGNER: Well, it is.

MATTHEWS: I know that everything says, well, Matthews has finally figured
out the deal here.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: It`s not that bad yet.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Alex. And thank you, Eugene.

WAGNER: Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Alex Wagner, noontime show.

Up next: Jimmy Kimmel says what we`re all thinking about Ted Cruz. He can
say the worst, and maybe it`s appropriate in this case.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": One national monument that
remains closed is the World War II Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There was a big protest at the memorial yesterday. Sarah Palin was there,
as was the guy who started this whole lockout, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who
demanded an answer to this question.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Let me ask a simple question. Why is the
federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out
of this memorial?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KIMMEL: Hmm, let`s see. I`m not sure, but I think it`s because of you,
right?

(LAUGHTER)

KIMMEL: We learned it from watching you, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well said. Time for the "Sideshow."

That was Jimmy Kimmel last night saying what everybody, I guess except
Senator Cruz, knew already.

Well, yesterday was also Columbus Day, of course. And the Kimmel crew went
on to find out how much people really knew or know now about Christopher
Columbus. Here`s what they found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came to America, and he ate Thanksgiving. He had
Thanksgiving.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Columbus traveled the world, came to America, and
whatever he came on must have been a canoe, kayak, same thing. I don`t
even know.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And whatever he made, he came to America and I guess he
found it, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What year did he sail here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1842.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1842, I believe, 1842.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what Columbus` last name is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys don`t know Columbus` last name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was something in Italian because he was an Italian
fellow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I think it was something Spanish, like Juan.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That`s always sad.

Anyway, next up, first lady Michelle Obama is set to make a cameo on NBC`s
"The Biggest Loser" next month. It will be her second appearance on the
reality show. Last year, she led a workout from the East Room of the White
House. It`s all about -- well, part of the first lady`s Let`s Move
campaign, which she hopes will reserve the growing obesity epidemic in this
country.

But it`s actually not the first time we have seen this kind of initiative
come out of the White House. Coincidentally, a similar, yet unrelated
story in "USA Today" shed some new light on former President William Howard
Taft`s own struggle with obesity a hundred years ago.

It turns out that the portly chief exec who was more famous for his
waistline than his presidency followed a diet regimen that is not entirely
different from those used today. Historian and assistant professor at
Providence College Deborah Levine dug up correspondence that revealed that
Taft frequently consulted with doctors about his weight and even kept
meticulous notes about it. The result? He lost 59 pounds in less than a
year. Who knew? That`s lots more room in the bathtub, that big bathtub of
his.

Up next, who`s winning the Republican Party? Who is running it? Is it
John Boehner and the so-called leaders, or the full-mooners of the far
right?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.

Suspected al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi pleaded not guilty in New
York in federal court. He is charged with helping plan two embassy
bombings in Africa in 1998.

Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner pleaded guilty to charges of false
imprisonment and battery as part of a plea deal. He faces three months of
home confinement and three years` probation.

And President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Army Captain Bill
Swenson for saving injured troops in Afghanistan in 2009 -- back to
HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There`s a lot of opinions
about what direction to go. There have been no decisions about what
exactly we will do.

QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, the changes in your bill to the president`s health
care law are arguably pretty minor. Were they worth a two-week government
shutdown?

BOEHNER: Listen, we`re working with our members on a way forward and to
make sure that we provide fairness to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That didn`t answer the question. Is it reasonable to bring down
the government and threaten our national credit standing for this stuff,
this small potatoes they`re talking about?

Anyway, time`s pretty much up. We`re now 15 days into the government
shutdown and just a day before the Treasury Department says we`re going to
hit that debate -- that debt ceiling. And as you saw in that clip, House
Speaker Boehner is no closer to cutting to a deal with his own caucus than
he was when this thing started weeks ago.

Well, the party is being destroyed in the national polls, and we sit on the
edge of an economic collapse. That`s real. The polls could change, but
the facts are real.

But, still, House Republicans won`t budge off their ideological fixation
with the president`s health care law, even though it`s not secret in this
town that this is not what Boehner wanted. It is, however, exactly what
Ted Cruz wanted earlier in the year.

Earlier in the show, we showed you this headline from "Roll Call": "Ted
Cruz and House Republicans Meet in Secret." It`s no coincidence, following
that meeting last night at the Tortilla Coast, Boehner saw his latest plan
soundly rejected this morning by the caucus` far right, forcing him to go
back to the drawing board at that time.

NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell reported that, according to GOP sources, the reality
is GOP leadership doesn`t have enough votes to pass their own plan at this
time. They`re looking for changes that would increase support among
Republicans."

So, what lies ahead remains a major question for the Republicans,
including, who`s actually in charge of that party on its way to a train
wreck?

Michael Steele is former RNC chairman and Joan Walsh is editor at large for
Salon.com. Both are MSNBC analysts.

Michael, the Republican Party is now represented by somebody in a Mexican
restaurant eating in a secret meeting with about 30 red hots from the far
right.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: By the way, a party not known for its desire to have more
Mexicans live in the country -- in this country.

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Mexican food is good, though.

MATTHEWS: But send the food across the border.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: But we like the food.

MATTHEWS: You like the food. That`s a little bit ludicrous.

But let`s go back to the facts tonight.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: They had a secret meeting in the basement -- it`s not so secret
because Kevin McCarthy, one of the leaders, spotted them across the room.
That wasn`t very secret.

And yet this guy has apparently stirred them up enough that 30 people have
said once again no to John Boehner, no deal. They want more, more red hot
stuff, more red meat, something that takes something away from Obamacare
and hurts the president physically. They want him to stagger out of this
deal.

STEELE: Well, the president`s not going to stagger out of this deal. And
that`s the problem.

The president is in the strongest possible position with respect to
Obamacare, because he`s got all the weight of evidence on his side,
including two elections and the Supreme Court decision.

Set that aside. So where does the party need to go now? It is not
necessarily to block John Boehner. Let John Boehner cut the deal to get
you out from under this. You can fight another day on Obamacare, because
it`s not going anywhere. And you need more votes to get anything
substantively done on it anyway.

So the real battle in front of us right now is our nation`s debt ceiling.
How do we go about making the argument to bring in the level of spending,
to decrease the size of government, consistent with principles, yes, but
also consistent with what the polls are showing the American people want?
That`s where the fight is. And we`re getting -- we have gotten so far off
on this thing now, Chris, that --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. But, tonight, but, tonight, Michael, tonight, there`s going
to be another wasted vote for something that`s never going to happen, more
slices and attacks against Obamacare passed by the House, when it`s only
got tomorrow and the next day to get both houses to get this thing done.

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: Why do they keep going in the direction that doesn`t take them
anywhere, except to another dead end?

STEELE: I agree with you on that. I don`t know why -- why there is this
effort to keep going into the wall and thinking that, every time you hit
it, you have made progress.

MATTHEWS: One explanation is institutional, Joan. That is that the U.S.
Senate is made up of people who represent all states. That inevitably
means they represent minorities, they represent some liberals, they
represent big cities, as well as small towns and suburban areas. They have
to be somewhat representative of the people they represent.

Now, House members represent very 90 percent in some cases Republican
districts, where they don`t have to listen to anybody.

WALSH: Right.

MATTHEWS: They will get reelected for just being angry. All they have to
do is prove they`re angry, and they get reelected.

WALSH: But, you know --

MATTHEWS: This is where we -- I think we have this stalemate in the House.

WALSH: John Boehner is a profile in Jell-O.

But I have got to say, the moderate House Republicans have not impressed me
either, because they`re not really doing anything. They`re talking. Maybe
they come on MSNBC. Maybe they say something that sounds brave. But, at
the end of the day, no one`s -- no one`s leading any kind of charge.

The only way that this ends, Chris -- and Michael knows this -- right now
is that John Boehner turns to Nancy Pelosi and says help me get the votes
for something.

STEELE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I agree.

WALSH: And that thing has to be what the Senate is going to do.

It`s really been written. It`s been preordained, if we get out of it. I
think there`s still a possibility that we don`t. But it`s just really
waiting for John Boehner to wise up, let the babies cry it out, and then
turn -- partner with Nancy Pelosi, like he`s done several times before.

MATTHEWS: This is the problem for Boehner. I said it at the beginning of
this show.

If he goes with them on this thing, on some kind of health care demolition
squad, if he sets a -- another debt ceiling -- or, rather, continuation of
the government, another shutdown for December 15, before Christmas --

STEELE: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- he`s basically consigning himself to every two months
another government shutdown, every two months something to do with the
debt, every two months something to try to attack Obamacare, because
they`re not going to stop to say we won.

If they get another government shutdown scheduled for December 15, if they
get a piece of Obamacare, they will come back for a leg, an arm, the torso,
the head. They`re not going to stop because -- if they keep winning. So,
why does he join the group? You say, don`t do it. But tell me why he`s
doing it. There`s no future in it.

STEELE: I don`t know why he`s doing it, other than to sort of feel that,
on the end, at the tend, he can get some people to the table.

MATTHEWS: When`s he going to lead?

STEELE: But this is what I think -- I think -- I think we`re at a point
here where Boehner says either, yes, I`m just going to stand with the
caucus and we`re going to watch this thing come to its inevitable end,
which has catastrophic effects, or he says, I sacrifice my speakership.

In other words, I`m going to have to do exactly what Joan just said. I`m
going to have to eventually go to Nancy Pelosi. I`m going to take 15 or 20
Republicans with me who will cast that vote, and we will get this thing
done that way.

But then it`s over, because the base at that point is completely done. And
that`s a decision he has to ultimately make, whether or not this is worth
his speakership.

MATTHEWS: And you think they would abandon -- they would dump him?

STEELE: Oh, if he -- if he cuts the deal and leaves Obamacare untouched on
the table -- absolutely.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: But who has the votes to beat him at this point?
It`s such a fractured caucus at this point, Michael. I mean, I think he`s
a danger. I don`t want to minimize it, but you start counting votes and
who would get a majority?
MATTHEWS: I don`t think he`s a leader if he keeps going on the route he`s
on right now. I think he`s a follower.

Anyway, speaking of Boehner, let`s look at the pros and cons of his
strategy not to stand up to the Tea Party. The cons, shut down the
government get blamed for it. Push markets to the edge, get blamed for it.
Distract attention away from the health care laws rocky rollout. See your
party`s approval ratings plummet to historic lows. Unify your opposition,
meaning, remember when everyone was talking about the fractious state of
Democrats on the issues of Syria and Larry Summers, neither do I. Nobody
remembers that.

And when zero concessions from the White House or Democrats, the process --
the only pro for Boehner, he`s still speaker. But for how long?

On the other side, there`s Cruz. In the two weeks since the government
shutdown, he`s solidified his standing among the party`s base. He`s become
a folk hero to the right for his meaningless 21-hour talkathon. He won the
Values Voter Summit straw poll. And his influence is growing among House
Republicans.

He also now knows where to get good Mexican food within a block from the
House. Remember they had to be -- because he met on the House side, didn`t
know about this, Tortilla Coast.

This is ridiculous.

STEELE: It is.

MATTHEWS: When you were running the party, it had pride.

STEELE: Yes. And a lot of that pride is misplaced right now. I think --
I think we are standing in the wilderness going, which direction. And the
focus -- and the American people are making it clear where they want us to
go on this. This from the very beginning from my estimation was not about
Obamacare because Obamacare was an un-appropriated, you know, entity you
couldn`t do anything about. It was going to come online. You live to
fight another day on that front to reform it and fix it in the normal
course.

MATTHEWS: Do they want to do anything to fix it?

STEELE: I think some members do. I think a majority of the members do
want to fix it. It`s the way they`ve gone about it. I still believe the
battle is over the spending levels, over the level of the debt, and the
mortgage that we`re putting on the backs of our kids in the future. That`s
a conversation America wants us to have, because we still have the
unemployment issues, we still have job creation issues and so forth.

And the party`s so far out right now, Chris, how do they swing back?

MATTHEWS: That`s my question to you, Joan. You`ve got to answer the
question Mike posed there. How does Boehner bring his party back to the
table where there can be a deal? Because without a deal, failure --
failure of this whole process.

WALSH: I don`t think he does. I mean, I think he brings some people who
vote with Democrats to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling. I
mean, I just want to point to you how much this is actually worries me as a
Democrat, because to some extent, you could argue that this is a victory
for Republicans. They are getting what they want in terms of a shorter
lifting of the debt ceiling. We do com back at least in the Senate bill
that was talked about last night. It never took shape, so we don`t know
really what`s in it yet.

But, you know, they were going to come up with some kind of debt solution
and they were going to have a big negotiation on the budget, that was going
to be done by the middle of December. And liberals often get shafted in
that. So --

MATTHEWS: Guess what. They`ve got a deal. They`re saying now they want
another government shutdown December 15th. The same time they say they
want a report on this long-term spending cut and entitlement reform effort,
the whole. They want it all done. In other words for the next two months,
we`ll have nothing but craziness, because they can`t get it done in two
months.

STEELE: And government by crazy is no way to govern.

WALSH: And some people think it`s crazy for Democrats to even agree to
that, to say we`re going to kick the can down the road, but that`s sort of
where we are. So, you know, Harry Reid went to Mitch McConnell. John
Boehner did not go to Nancy Pelosi or any Democrat.

MATTHEWS: It`s terrible. It`s terrible. Thank you, Michael Steele.
Thank you, Joan. What a prognostication. We`re going to look ahead for
the next to months of this.

Up next, is anybody buying the Republican stunts trying to pin the blame
for the shutdown on the Democrats. This is the most ludicrous. Let`s go
and have another demonstration about how we didn`t do what everyone saw us
doing. You`re going to believe me or your lying eyes?

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Three big races coming up in the next three weeks. Let`s check
the HARDBALL score board.

First to New Jersey in that special election for the United States Senate.

According to a new poll from Quinnipiac, Democrat Cory Booker leads
Republican Steve Lonegan by 14 points. It`s booker 54, Lonegan 40.

And the new Rutgers-Eagleton poll has Booker`s lead even bigger. It`s
Booker 58, Lonegan 36. That`s a 22-point spread for Mr. Booker. That
election is tomorrow.

Now to the New Jersey governor`s race. New Monmouth poll has Chris
Christie up by 24, 59-35. The candidates debate tonight.

Finally to Virginia where a new Christopher Newport University poll has
Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the lead by seven points. It`s McAuliffe 46,
Ken Cuccinelli 39. The libertarian in the race, 7.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R), TEXAS: How do you -- how do you look at them
and say how do you deny them access? I don`t get that.

PARK RANGER: It`s difficult.

NEUGEBAUER: Well, it should be difficult.

PARK RANGER: It is difficult. I`m sorry, sir.

NEUGEBAUER: The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves.

PARK RANGER: I`m not ashamed.

NEUGEBAUER: You should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Wow. Not ashamed. Good for her.

We`re back.

After shutting down the government, the Republicans are going to great
lengths to convince voters out there that it was the Democrats who did it
all along.

Just one example, Republicans knew shutting down cancer research was bad
public relations, of course. So they dressed up in lab coats and pretended
to be outraged that medical research was being compromised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Are you saying now that perhaps there`s been a change in
thinking about the role of government and how much money should be going to
these agencies?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: Robin (ph), you know I have been
insistent on making as a priority funding for the NIH and specifically
funding for pediatric medical research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, it made for good TV, of course.

But the fine print they didn`t want you to see was that 2011 House
Republican budget sought to cut $1.6 billion from the National Institutes
of Health. The designated spokesperson here, Majority Leader Eric Cantor
himself proposed a $1.3 billion cut to NIH just a year earlier.

Well, this is just one example, the stance Republicans have been pulling
since the shutdown begun.

"Huffington Post`s" Sam Stein is an MSNBC contributor, and Lizz Winstead if
a co-creator of "The Daily Show".

I don`t know where to start with satire or reporting. I`m going to start
with however.

Sam, what is the consistency here in their argument that, you know, the
park guards and going after the park police and going WW2, good PR.
Everybody cares about our veterans or should. But don`t they know that
that was clearly a decision made and pushed by Ted Cruz basically.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: It`s shocking, though, when you shut down the
government, government functions get shut down. Who knew?

But the broader point is what you touched on earlier is all these separate
things they wanted to fund, whether it was NIH, whether it was Head Start,
all these things are limited in funding by the sequestration levels that
they adhered to. So, there`s limitations to their devotion to the NIH, you
can`t say one week say put on lab coats and demand more funding for
scientific researches for cancer and then within days insist that
sequestration levels funding be kept in place, which greatly prohibits NIH
research. There`s just no consistency there.

MATTHEWS: Lizz, I think the Republicans are trying to do their best at
street theater. And they`re not the most theatrical of political parties,
but they`ve learned how to do these sort of show boating things, I mean,
they have been encouraging real far right maniacs to go grab those barriers
and take them down to the White House and throw them at the White House
fence. It`s just short of violence. It`s what these MIA characters out
there to do that.

I mean, that was an odd alliance I saw the other day. The guys with the
pony tails and the Harleys all seem to be aligned with the Republican right
on this stuff.

LIZZ WINSTEAD, CO-CREATOR, "THE DAILY SHOW": You know, I think that we`ve
just watched this go down again and again and again. You know, this is the
party that actually said, you know, there`s some pieces of Obamacare we`d
like to keep, and then they would list the parts they wanted to keep and it
was basically the whole of Obamacare. And these are the people who say, we
want to reduce the number of abortions and the way we want to do that is to
remove access to birth control. You know, the people who say, you know,
what`s good for the government is if we shut it down.

So, I don`t know -- I`m more concerned about the people who keep voting for
them than almost I am them.

MATTHEWS: You know, I wish more people would point out the obvious
inconsistency in what they say. They don`t like education -- sex
education. They don`t like the availability of birth control pills or
condoms or anything like that.

But yet they see the realities of unplanned for pregnancies which could
lead to in many cases abortion and the decisions of the people -- the
women`s right under the law. And yet, they don`t see the connection, but
they keep espousing this stuff.

Sam, this whole thing, though, I think it`s all a very purposeful effort to
cut their losses. People who read the newspapers know that Republicans
want to shoot down the government.

What are they playing to? The group that`s willing to bow down to their
point of view, no matter what it is, no matter who lame.

STEIN: I think it`s more complex than that. I think what ended up
happening was they walk themselves into a corner. And they shut down the
government over Obamacare, and then they wanted to turn around and say we
never did this.

And so, the only way out of it was to do these piecemeal funding efforts.
And this was all part of Ted Cruz`s plans. He had talk about it on talk
radio, weeks in advance of the shutdown, which he essentially said, listen,
we`ll shut down the government, we`ll pass things that are very popular and
leave everything shut down.

And so, then, you have these incongruous events in which the Republicans
shut down the government and then bemoan the fact that the government was
shut down. It just didn`t make sense.

MATTHEWS: How far is he going to go? He`s meeting at the Mexican
restaurant last night with 20 or 30 red hot.

STEIN: Tortilla Coast, yes.

MATTEHWS: Is he willing to push all the way and have a shutdown, meaning,
lead us to a default after Thursday midnight?

STEIN: I don`t know. I mean, right now, what we`re hearing in the
conservative group is that they want to keep the government shutdown, but
they want to pass a very short-term debt limit hike, to separate the two.
And as of now, the House Republican leadership hasn`t really indicated
which way they want to go on this? There`s no indication yet that they
have the votes to combine the two. So, perhaps, they`re going to turn
around and say, we`ll do a short term debt limit increase, but we`re going
to keep the government shut down for now the third week.

And, you know, whether the president will accept that is anyone`s guess.

WINSTEAD: Well, and how dumb are you that you want to push it short-term
to the point where the next time we`re talking about this again is when
people are getting ready to spend their money for Christmas? You know,
it`s like what do they understand?

MATTHEWS: You mean that might hurt the economy?

WINSTEAD: You think?

STEIN: Perhaps.

Although I`m a Jew, so it doesn`t matter to me.

MATTHEWS: So, I don`t know. Here we are at the end of this game tomorrow
night. It is a game, in a weird way, with all these stakes being historic
and totally cosmic almost, and yet they play it like a game, like a board
game. I don`t think there`s anything worth in what they`re doing.

Sometimes both parties are wrong. This time, one party is wrong.

Anyway, thank you, Sam Stein. Thank you, Lizz Winstead, for coming here.

WINSTEAD: Sure.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

Tonight, we`re having a big get-together in Washington to mark the
publication of my book, "Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked."

People asked me if I timed the arrival of this book to this crazed mix of
anger and chaos surrounding us right now. Fat chance. I timed it like so
many of my earlier books to the happy season of advent leading to the
holidays.

I wanted it and still do to be a reminder that once, not a thousand years
ago, but only 30, we knew how to run this country. We had a president, the
people, even his rivals possessed historic stature. We had a committed
Democratic opposition that kept Reagan a conservative president and not
radical one, that protect vital parts of the safety net, kept the United
States from any deeper military involvement in Central America, kept our
own country together behind Reagan when he cut the Cold War deals ending,
well, with Mikhail Gorbachev.

I`m hoping people will take the time to read details of these two men, a
liberal and a conservative, and see if we can pull ourselves out of this
ditch of shame to which we are now propelling ourselves.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.


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